Brett Anderson, Jack Cust lead A’s past Twins
MINNEAPOLIS – Fresh off a three-game sweep in Chicago that all but eliminated the White Sox from contention in the AL Central, the Minnesota Twins rolled back home with their eyes set on catching the Yankees and Rays for the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
Brett Anderson and Oakland’s impressive young pitching staff put that chase on ice, for one night at least.
Jack Cust had a solo homer and a double, and the light-hitting Athletics gave Anderson just enough run support in a 3-1 victory that snapped Minnesota’s five-game winning streak Friday night.
Anderson (6-6) gave up four hits and struck out five before Craig Breslow got pinch-hitter Joe Mauer to pop out with the bases loaded to end the seventh inning. Andrew Bailey earned his 25th save in 28 tries.
“It was nice to beat a team that was obviously the best team in baseball since the break,” Geren said of the Twins, who are a major league-best 42-17 since the All-Star break. “They’re playing really good baseball over there and to come in and get the opener is huge.”
Nick Blackburn (9-10) had another encouraging start for the Twins, who were coming off a three-game sweep of the Chicago White Sox that put them nine games up in the AL Central. Blackburn gave up three runs and eight hits in seven innings.
But he didn’t get much help from a watered-down Twins lineup. Danny Valencia had two hits, including a solo homer, but the rest of the team managed just three more.
Center fielder and leadoff man Denard Span was scratched because of a sore right shoulder, right fielder Jason Kubel rested his sore wrist and Mauer was rested after catching all three games in the White Sox series.
Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire gave Ben Revere his first career start in center field, and the speedy rookie grounded out to the pitcher in three of his four at-bats.
“His first start in the big leagues, he did the best he could against a very good pitcher that ate a lot of hitters up, not just him,” Gardenhire said.
Revere, Jason Repko and Drew Butera combined to go 1 for 8 with a walk, but Repko’s infield single loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh.
Gardenhire brought in Mauer to pinch-hit and 40,681 fans came to their feet. But after just missing the first pitch, which caught a little more of the plate than the lefty Breslow probably would have liked, Mauer popped out to shallow left field.
“Just trying to help this club push for a playoff spot and hopefully we can clinch home-field advantage,” Revere said.
The Twins (88-59) still saw their magic number for clinching the division title drop to seven with Chicago’s loss to Detroit. But a win against Oakland would have moved them into a tie with the Yankees for the best record in baseball, and home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs.
Pitching hasn’t been an issue for the Athletics this season. They entered the game with a 3.56 ERA from their starters, the lowest total for an American League rotation this late in the season since the Red Sox finished 2002 at 3.53.
Anderson, who has been on the disabled list twice this year with elbow problems, has given up five earned runs in his last four starts.
“It’s been good to come back and pitch pretty decent,” Anderson said. “I’ve got a pretty good streak going on right now after a slow start and hopefully I can make these last three starts and make them count.”
It’s the offense that has been the problem.
Oakland didn’t have a batter in the lineup hitting better than .278 on Friday night. The A’s entered the night with the second-fewest extra-base hits, second-lowest slugging percentage (.372) and the fourth-fewest runs scored in the American League.
Five of Anderson’s six losses this season came with one or fewer runs of support. But the A’s had four extra-base hits and also got runs on a sacrifice fly by Rajai Davis in the second inning and an RBI single by Mark Ellis in the fifth.
“He’s one of the best young pitchers in baseball,” Geren said. “When he gets on a little roll, he can roll right through a lineup and he did that. A good lineup, too.”
NOTES: Oakland rookie Chris Carter went 0 for 3 and fell to 0 for 27 to start his career, breaking Bill McNulty’s franchise record. McNulty started his career 0 for 25 in 1972. … Gardenhire said RHP Scott Baker will throw another bullpen session Saturday to test the tendinitis in his right elbow that has bothered him recently. Gardenhire said Baker could be used in a spot start or two down the stretch to give the rest of the staff an extra day of rest before the playoffs.