Anthony Swarzak failed to work through the fourth inning, losing an early 3-0 lead, and the Twins dropped their third straight game and their 11th in their last 14 games away from home. Starter Josh Outman was excellent for the Athletics; the young lefthander struck out seven in six innings, and allowed just one baserunner in the innings other than the fourth.
Jack Cust's fifth-inning home run off Luis Ayala proved to be the game-winning run for Oakland, which won its seventh straight game. It's the A's longest winning streak since August of 2006.
It was the fourth that made the difference - really for both teams. In the top of the inning, Outman got the first two hitters easily, but then appeared to come unglued. A single by Michael Cuddyer and a walk by Brendan Harris got the Twins going. Delmon Young followed with a ground ball to deep short, and Orlando Cabrera couldn't get the ball to second base in time to force Harris. With the bases loaded, Outman briefly lost control, walking the near-unwalkable Carlos Gomez to force in a run. Matt Tolbert, the next batter, plonked a bloop single to right to score two more, and the Twins had a three-run lead.
Unfortunately for Minnesota, in the bottom of the inning, Swarzak didn't waste any time in falling completely apart. He walked the first two hitters of the inning on eight pitches, each missing by more than the previous pitch (and each drawing a louder cheer from the small Oakland crowd.) Harris, playing shortstop, made a great play to get a force at third on a Kurt Suzuki ground ball, but Swarzak responded to the out by plunking Aaron Cunningham in the head. (Three inches lower, and Cunningham would have been in real trouble. The outfielder left the game after running the bases, which was probably for the best. Here's hoping he's okay.)
With the bases loaded, struggling former Gopher Jack Hannahan lined a double to left-center, scoring all three runners and killing the Twins lead.
Another great defensive play by Harris got a second out, but the third walk of the inning was enough to chase Swarzak after just three and two-thirds - and likely send the young righthander back to Rochester, presumably to learn how to throw a strike.
And of course, since the Twins were on the road on Monday, this adversity was enough to throw them into a tailspin for the remainder of the night. The littlest things are enough to throw the Twins off - even a fifth-inning solo home run was enough to sink them. After the fourth, Minnesota put a grand total of two men on the bases.
Not surprisingly, once again, it wasn't enough to get the Twins a road win.
Three Twins Black Holes:
3. Delmon Young
I can't stress enough how ludicrous this is: Young was the designated hitter. This is like assigning John Daly to guard your whiskey supply. Anyway, Young struck out and didn't get the ball out of the infield in three trips. He could go up there with anything - a golf club, a boat oar, a wiffle bat, a piano leg - and he'd have an equal chance of getting a real hit: zero.
2. Justin Morneau
Struck out three times against Outman, looking increasingly worse in each at-bat. He's been killing lefties this year, but Outman was just too good.
1. Anthony Swarzak
Couldn't find the plate in the fourth, and if he can't make adjustments, he's going to have to go back to Rochester to learn how.
Three Twins Stars (such as they were)
3. Sean Henn
Shut out the A's for 2.1 innings, something both Swarzak and Ayala failed to do.
2. Matt Tolbert
Two-out, RBI single was an unexpected clutch hit for a team that desperately needs clutch hits.
1. Joe Mauer
A pair of singles in four trips to the plate. Considering the rest of the team combined for a grand total of three hits, I'd say that's something.
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