A’s make the most out of final five outs in comeback victory
OAKLAND – With a three-run lead and five outs to go, Minnesota’s Nick Blackburn certainly seemed to be cruising toward the first shutout of his promising young career.
Three batters later, Blackburn had given it all away – and one inning after that, the Oakland Athletics dramatically added another loss to the Twins’ discouraging season away from home.
Rajai Davis slapped a single to right to drive in the winning run in the ninth, and the A’s rallied from a late three-run deficit for a 4-3 victory Thursday.
Blackburn allowed six hits over eight strong innings for Minnesota, but the right-hander wasted a healthy lead in the eighth with three consecutive hits: Jack Hannahan’s triple, Orlando Cabrera’s RBI single and Andy Kennedy’s two-run tying homer to right.
The rally was stunningly quick, but it was hardly shocking to anybody who’s followed the Twins’ road woes – or even to Blackburn, who didn’t feel as good as he looked while preventing the A’s even from reaching third base until the eighth.
“It was almost like a matter of time, really,” Blackburn said. “I didn’t feel like myself out there. I was able to get away with a lot until the eighth. Don’t get me wrong, I was able to make some pitches when I had to, and I still felt like things were going well.”
Hannahan hit a one-out triple for Oakland in the eighth when right fielder Michael Cuddyer misjudged his dive and allowed the ball to roll to the wall. Cabrera drove him home, and Kennedy hit the fifth homer of his outstanding first month with the A’s.
Sean Henn (0-2) walked Jason Giambi to open the ninth, and Matt Guerrier hit pinch-hitter Kurt Suzuki with a pitch. After Daric Barton’s sacrifice bunt, Davis scored pinch-runner Chris Denorfia, setting off a tasteful celebration for the last-place A’s, who have won eight of 10.
Manager Bob Geren predicted Davis’ heroics a few moments earlier, sidling over to the outfielder and encouraging him to be ready to win it. Davis cracked his bat on Guerrier’s outside slider, but got it over the drawn-in infield.
“Pitching and defense kept us in it this time,” Davis said. “We were able to find a way. We might not have had the best offensive day, but we got there when it counted.”
After winning two straight at the Coliseum to snap the A’s seven-game winning streak, Minnesota was unable to take three road games in a row for the first time all year. The Twins, whose nine road wins are fewer than any AL team except Baltimore, haven’t won a road series since April 24-26 in Cleveland.
“I don’t know how to describe that game,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “It’s going as good as it can go, and then a couple of (hits) and a home run within four or five pitches, and they tie it up. It’s amazing. Blackie throws as good as he can throw. It was a frustrating game. Pretty sad, really. That was his ballgame. This is one of the disappointing ones.”
Brad Ziegler (1-1) pitched two scoreless innings of relief for Trevor Cahill, who gave up an early three-run homer to Minnesota’s Joe Crede. Cahill allowed seven hits over seven innings in his second straight solid start after a rough beginning to the season.
Minnesota got its only runs in the fourth. After Justin Morneau hit a one-out single and Jason Kubel walked, Crede hit the first pitch into left field for his 10th homer.
Crede had just two hits in the series, but both were huge: The third baseman led off the ninth inning Wednesday night with a triple, and a pinch-runner scored the go-ahead run in Minnesota’s 6-3 victory.
“We lost a tough game last night, a game that we probably should have won,” Geren said. “To bounce back today, that’s a pretty good feeling.”
Notes: The Twins will activate SS Nick Punto before Friday’s game, optioning INF Alexi Casilla to make room. … Minnesota is 3-4 on its 10-game road trip, which concludes at Wrigley Field this weekend with three games against the Cubs. … Hannahan went 2 for 3 after a 4 for 27 skid over his previous 11 games. … Twins SS Brendan Harris hit a fifth-inning single, giving him hits in 15 of his last 16 games.
Diamondbacks 2, Giants 1.
PHOENIX – Max Scherzer allowed three hits over 7 2-3 dominant innings and Justin Upton drove in two runs with a homer and RBI single Thursday, leading the Arizona Diamondbacks over the San Francisco Giants 2-1.
Mixing breaking balls with fastballs in the low-to-mid-90s, Scherzer (3-4) struck out six and walked one.
San Francisco closed in the ninth on a run-scoring wild pitch by Chad Qualls, who got his 13th save in 16 chances when he struck out pinch-hitter Edgar Renteria with a runner at third.
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