MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Neither the Minnesota Twins nor the Oakland Athletics wanted a postponement, despite a severe thunderstorm that delayed the first pitch by 2 hours and 42 minutes and left the ballpark largely empty.
The long wait was well worth it for Tommy Milone and Twins.
Kennys Vargas, Max Kepler and Miguel Sano hit home runs, Milone beat his old team and the Twins topped the Athletics 11-4 in a game that ended early Wednesday morning.
“When you win, it makes it look like a good decision so I’m glad we got it in,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said.
The game started at 9:52 p.m. and ended at 1 a.m.
“They were right,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “They got it in.”
Winning for the first time in eight starts since Sept. 28, Milone finished the sixth inning for only the second time this season. Marcus Semien hit his 18th home run in the second, but that was all the A’s managed against Milone (1-2). He allowed five hits and one walk to the team that traded him to the Twins two summers ago, crediting catcher Kurt Suzuki for calling a smart game behind the plate.
“We were on the same page pretty much the whole night,” Milone said.
Milone averaged 4½ innings over his first six starts this year. With top prospect Jose Berrios on a tear for Triple-A Rochester, the left-hander was likely pitching to keep his spot in the rotation. Molitor essentially acknowledged as much before and after the game.
“I try not to think about that. I try to just go out there and do what I do on the field,” Milone said.
Danny Valencia hit a three-run homer in the eighth to bring the A’s within 7-4, but Sano hit his three-run shot in the bottom of the inning to seal it and help the Twins (28-55) move ahead of Atlanta (28-56) in the race for the worst record in the major leagues.
Vargas, recalled Monday from Triple-A Rochester, went deep for the first time since June 22, 2015, with a two-run, two-out home run in the fifth against Sean Manaea (3-5). Then Kepler homered on the next pitch.
After a meager four-hit performance Monday, the Twins brought their bats to life. Suzuki, another former A’s player, had two RBIs. Byron Buxton had two doubles, driving in one.
The dark clouds rolled in early enough to cancel batting practice, but with both teams scheduled to travel Wednesday evening (Minnesota to Texas and Oakland to Houston) the preference was to avoid a doubleheader the next day. So they waited out the heavy rain, swirling wind and thunder and lightning, and the tarp was pulled off the infield at 9:17 p.m. In the clubhouse, some of the Twins gathered around shortstop Eduardo Nunez’s cubicle to talk about his All-Star Game selection.
Milone hadn’t begun his pregame routine when the rain began, so he said he wasn’t bothered much by the delay. Manaea might have been.
“I know he was pretty antsy,” Melvin said. “He kept coming in here asking me if I’d heard anything. For starting pitchers, they’re the ones that are affected the most. They’re very routine-oriented.”
Paid attendance was announced at 16,938, the smallest crowd in Target Field’s seven seasons. The actual number of people in the seats at first pitch couldn’t have been much more than 1,000. The Twins granted fans ticket exchanges for a future game because of the delay, which was the 31st since the ballpark opened in 2010. There have been 14 postponed games and one suspended.
ATHLETICS: Oakland reserve catcher Josh Phegley, placed Sunday on the DL, had minor surgery in San Francisco to remove a cruciate ligament cyst on the inside of his right knee that was causing swelling and inflammation. He’ll be reassessed in 10 days. Matt McBride has taken over as the backup.
TWINS: Buxton was back in the Minnesota lineup after two days off to rest bumps and bruises. He crashed hard into the wall in left-center making a catch in the game Friday. In the seventh inning, Buxton made a sprinting grab of Jake Smolinski’s smashed line drive and collided with the fence around the same spot.
Oakland RHP Sonny Gray (3-7, 5.42 ERA) will pitch Wednesday against Minnesota RHP Ervin Santana (2-7, 4.50 ERA) in the series finale.
Gray is 0-2 with a 4.42 ERA in six starts since coming off the DL due to a trapezius muscle strain between his shoulder and neck. Santana gave up only three hits in his last start, going 6 2/3 innings in a defeat by Texas. That was his lowest hits total since opening day, when a rain delay limited him to two innings.
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