MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Josh Willingham hit a three-run homer in the ninth inning to lift the Minnesota Twins to a 3-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday night.
Justin Morneau added two doubles for the Twins, who trailed 2-0 heading into the ninth thanks to a strong start from A’s right-hander Jarrod Parker.
But Jamey Carroll led off the ninth with a single against Brian Fuentes (2-1), who then walked Denard Span. With two out, Willingham hit a 1-0 pitch into the bullpen and was mobbed by teammates at home plate.
The Athletics squandered another late-inning lead to lose for the seventh time in a row. The Twins ended Ryan Cook’s 23-inning scoreless streak in the eighth inning Monday en route to a 5-4 victory.
Parker allowed four hits, walked four and struck out four in six shutout innings for the A’s.
Glen Perkins (1-1) pitched the ninth for the Twins and Fuentes, the former Twins reliever, blew his second save in six chances this season.
Willingham had just four hits in his previous 28 at-bats when he sent the rocket over the fence in the ninth for his ninth homer.
Collin Cowgill’s base hit in the seventh gave the Athletics a 1-0 lead and Coco Crisp’s single in the eighth made it 2-0, but that was all their weak-hitting lineup could muster while they wait to see if Manny Ramirez can give them a much-needed jolt.
The A’s left 12 runners on base and couldn’t take advantage of control problems by jittery Twins starter Cole De Vries, who was able to pitch five shutout innings while walking five and hitting another batter.
While Ramirez is working on his timing with Triple-A Sacramento following a 50-game suspension, the beleaguered A’s offense entered the night hitting an MLB-worst .211 this season.
De Vries gave the sputtering offense plenty of opportunities to get going. He walked five and hit a batter in the first three innings, but the Twins turned two double plays and Seth Smith grounded out to first with the bases loaded in the third.
De Vries is from the Minneapolis suburb of Eden Prairie and played in college at the University of Minnesota. The 27-year-old was signed as a rookie free agent in 2006 and languished in the majors for six years before finally making his debut with the Twins this year.
This was his first start at home, and there seemed to be plenty of jitters early on.
The right-hander was able to settle down eventually, needing just 22 pitches to get through the next two innings before giving way to Manship.
Offense hasn’t been much of an issue lately for the Twins, whose 69 runs scored in the last two weeks are the highest total in the majors. But Parker had them flailing for six innings.
Pitching against a Twins offense that has scored 69 runs in the last two weeks, he routinely hit 94 mph with his fastball on the Target Field radar gun and buckled knees on several occasions with a superb changeup. He got some help from his defense, including a running, bare-handed pickup by shortstop Cliff Pennington to get speedy Ben Revere to end the third and prevent Denard Span from scoring and a nifty double play from Brandon Inge at third base that stranded another runner in scoring position in the fifth.
Parker capped his night by getting Trevor Plouffe to ground into a fielder’s choice with the bases loaded in the sixth.
NOTES: A’s manager Bob Melvin said they are leaving their options open when OF Yeonis Cespedes comes off the disabled list. The A’s are exploring the idea of moving Cespedes to one of the corner outfield positions, likely LF, and keeping Coco Crisp in CF. Cespedes’ stronger arm and comfort with the idea makes it a possibility, Melvin said. … Crisp extended his franchise record to 30 straight steal attempts without getting caught in the third inning. … The Twins announced that LHP Phil Dumatrait, who was rehabbing a shoulder injury, decided to retire. The Twins then released him so he would be free to sign with any team if he changed his mind down the road. … The A’s will send RHP Tyson Ross (2-5, 5.79) to the mound in the series finale on Wednesday to face LHP Francisco Liriano (0-5, 8.47). Liriano will be making his first start since being demoted to the bullpen on May 9. He made five relief appearances. Ross is 1-5 with a 7.36 ERA in his last six starts.
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