MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Phil Hughes picked the Minnesota Twins for the change of scenery. The new home ballpark alone won’t reverse the results of last season.
Hughes gave up four runs off four hits and two walks in the first inning of Wednesday’s 7-4 loss to the Oakland Athletics. He needed 40 pitches to get the first out of his poor opening inning at Target Field, damage that a tying rally by the Twins in the ninth couldn’t overcome.
Jared Burton (0-1) gave up the three-run homer in the 11th inning to Derek Norris.
“Combination of some jitters, overthrowing and not being able to find the strike zone,” Hughes said. “From there it unraveled on me. Four runs down, 40 pitches in, it’s a tough way to start the game for the hitters. They did a great job bouncing back, and the bullpen stepped up and made this a game.”
Relievers Caleb Thielbar, Anthony Swarzak and Brian Duensing combined for five strikeouts and didn’t allow a hit over four innings.
Jason Kubel and Brian Dozier rallied the Twins with solo home runs. In the ninth, Kurt Suzuki had back-to-back slides reviewed, one to get to third and the final to score the tying run. Both calls were confirmed.
“They were really close,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He extended the game a long time with those two slides.”
Gardenhire added: “It’s interesting. Everybody’s trying to get used to it. As long as it doesn’t stop the game, it’s going to be good. They’re trying to get them all right.”
A’s closer Johnson, who had 50 saves for Baltimore last season, loaded the bases with one out in the ninth. Eduardo Escobar poked a single into to left field to cut Oakland’s lead to 4-3, and the one-hop throw to third baseman Josh Donaldson nearly forced out Suzuki.
The A’s believed he was out, but manager Bob Melvin didn’t waste time arguing, instead replacing Johnson with Dan Otero (1-0), who got the last eight outs for the win.
Dozier hit a sacrifice fly to right field, just deep enough for Suzuki to race home and sneak a hand onto the plate in front of the tag by Norris. Another umpire-initiated review confirmed the safe call, and the crowd of 22,973 cheered loudly when the video board provided the proof.
Tensions mounted in the nearly 4-hour contest when Twins closer Glen Perkins pitched a scoreless 10th inning, which ended with benches clearing after Perkins struck out Josh Donaldson and the pair exchanged words along the first-base line.
“You get caught up in the emotions of the game,” Perkins said. “Like I said it’s no disrespect to him and the way he plays, you get fired up. There were things that happened in that at-bat that we both could have done differently. So we’ll leave it at that.”
Said Donaldson: “I’m up there trying to win a game for our team, and he’s trying to win a game for his team. Juices are flowing.”
After recording his first out, Hughes received a handful of sarcastic cheers. That’s not how Hughes envisioned his home debut after leaving the New York Yankees as a free agent for a $24 million, three-year contract with the Twins. Hughes expressed relief to escape the pressure of the Bronx and its hitter-friendly ballpark. He went 1-10 with a 6.32 ERA in 17 games at Yankee Stadium last season.
Hughes has allowed 12 hits and a 7.20 ERA through 10 innings with the Twins so far. He was able to bounce back and retire 11 straight batters on Wednesday before Donaldson’s second double of the game in the fifth inning.
“I did my best to scrap through and make it as respectable as I could,” Hughes said. “I have to do a better job of coming out of the gate.”
NOTES: Kubel tied his career high with four hits. . Trevor Plouffe extended his hitting streak to eight games with two singles. . OF Darin Mastroianni was summoned from Triple-A Rochester and will be available Thursday in place of OF Oswaldo Arcia (right wrist), who was placed on the disabled list . The three-game series will end Thursday with Athletics pitcher Dan Straily (0-1, 4.50 ERA) against Twins pitcher Mike Pelfrey (0-1, 5.06 ERA)
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