MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Even a monstrous home run from Jim Thome wasn’t enough to wake up the Minnesota Twins’ slumbering offense.
Thome ended the team’s homerless skid at 210 plate appearances, but the Oakland Athletics held on for a 5-3 victory Sunday to take two of three from the Twins in their first series of the season at Target Field.
Justin Morneau added three hits and an RBI for the Twins, but a 5-0 deficit proved too much to overcome for an offense that has scored just 24 runs in nine games this season.
“You don’t want to say it’s just April because April games mean just as much as games in May, June and July,” Thome said. “We’ve got a lot of good hitters. Everybody’s really talented. We just need to get rockin’ and rollin’.”
Hideki Matsui hit his first homer for the A’s and Josh Willingham also went deep for Oakland, which got another superb start from its formidable rotation.
Brandon McCarthy (1-0) allowed two runs and nine hits with five strikeouts in 7 1-3 innings and Brian Fuentes earned his third save.
Matsui hit a solo homer in the fourth inning and the A’s put four more runs on the board in the sixth to take control of the game. With McCarthy’s sinker biting and the Twins’ bats flailing, that was plenty for Oakland.
Morneau’s groundout scored Denard Span in the eighth and Thome followed with a 444-foot drive over the 36-foot high wall behind the center-field fence to make it 5-3. But that was all the Twins could muster on this day. They are hitting .214 as a team, with Joe Mauer (.233), Delmon Young (.188), Thome (.167), Michael Cuddyer (.107) and Danny Valencia (.194) all foundering.
“It’s going to click,” Young said. “No one on this team’s ever batted this low before. If you’re holding this team down right now, you’re doing something.”
Scott Baker (0-2) gave up four runs on seven hits with two walks and five strikeouts in five innings.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire pulled out all the stops to try and jump-start his struggling lineup, moving Cuddyer from right field to second base and giving Mauer a rare day game behind the plate.
“I felt comfortable at second,” Cuddyer said. “It was fun getting out there in the middle infield and feeling athletic again.”
But McCarthy chewed them up all game long, pounding the strike zone and recording 11 groundouts.
The series featured both good pitching and anemic offense, with the teams combining to score 12 runs in the three games. Runs were at such a premium that when Matsui’s homer slammed off the scoreboard on the facing of the second deck in right-center, the hometown fans let out a groan as if the game had ended right there.
Willingham led off the sixth with a towering home run to left field that traveled an estimated 427 feet. Kevin Kouzmanoff and Cliff Pennington added sacrifice flies and Landon Powell had an RBI double to make it 5-0.
“It was good that the offense came together today,” Matsui said through a translator. “The starting pitching has been pitching well, but they weren’t quite getting the offensive support.”
And as much as the Twins are trying to preach patience right now and not get too caught up in the putrid numbers on the stat sheet, they also say that they have to get things going. They have an off day on Monday before opening a series against Kansas City on Tuesday.
“It’s frustrating,” Cuddyer said. “No doubt about that. By no means do we just chalk this up to a week of struggling. It’s frustrating. But at the same time, we know we’ve got good hitters in here.”
NOTES: Thome’s two RBIs gave him 1,629, moving him past Harold Baines for 29th on the career list. … Mauer received his 2010 Gold Glove before the game. … The Twins also honored the University of Minnesota-Duluth men’s hockey team, which won the national championship Saturday night with an overtime victory against Michigan. … Ryan Sweeney got his first start of the season for the A’s, going 1 for 3 with a double while playing right field.
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