Man of the hour. First star of the game.
Strikeouts don't matter for hitters. If you really believe in this theory, today's game warmed your heart. Francisco Liriano was at his nastiest today (or just faced the A's - take your pick of narrative there). He struck out 15 A's over 8 innings, yet the Jonny Gomes and the A's pulled this one out to begin the second-half in winning fashion. A.J. Griffin would earn his first MLB win in the process.
Ironically, this was probably Griffin's worst start too. He lasted 6 innings, 8 hits, and struck out only 5. He also gave up two home runs to Josh Willingham, who was the extent of the Twins offense. Compliant Pork has had 4 HRs against the A's this year; today, however, he wouldn't break the A's hearts. Indeed, it would the combination of Gomes and Denard Span who would do so. In the 4th, after a leadoff single by Jemile Weeks, Josh Reddick struckout and up came Yoenis Cespedes. He hit what appeared to be a routine flyball to CF, but Span dropped it. At least, that's what ended being the call. An argument could be made that Span lost it in the transfer, but it appeared that he did simply muff the play entirely. With Cespedes reaching on an error, Carter walked and set up the bases loaded for Gomes. He didn't wait around, taking the first center-cut pitch out to dead left field.
After Willingham's second HR answered Gomes' in the bottom frame, the Twins wouldn't threaten again until the 8th. After a 1-2-3 7th and two quick outs in the 8th, Sean Doolittle basically pitched around Willingham (a questionable but defensible call) to get to Morneau. After fouling off 3 tough fastballs from Doolittle ranging from 94-96, he made the high outside pitch to Morneau, who was fooled and checked his swing, but managed to sneak the ball by Inge, who had shifted over towards SS for him. Inexplicably, Gomes managed to triple clutch on the pick up in LF, and allowed Morneau to get to 2nd as the winning run. Don't know what he was thinking there, but the Minnesota announcers are right: Gomes has to pick a base to throw to. If it was anyone else but Willingham running (Span?), it could have a run-scoring brainfart for Gomes. Melvin was quick to remove Doolittle after that AB to have Grant Balfour pitch to Trevor Plouffe. After an 8-pitch battle, Plouffe hit a screamer but right to Weeks, who needed to take only a couple steps to his right to snare a sure go-shead single away and keep the A's in front.
In the 9th, the A's tacked on 2 insurance runs courtesy of RBI singles from Gomes and Brandon Inge. Say what you will about Inge, but when taking into account his defense, he's been the second most valuable position player behind Reddick. It was good to see the Ingesanity back, if only for one inning. Ryan Cook would then come on to get the save after a 1-2-3 9th, with two K's on a pair of unhittable back-door sliders.
Tomorrow, the A's will face Cole "Bill Nye" de Vries in the middle game of this series. The A's will counter with Tommy Milone. Hopefully, Milone realizes he can pitch like HomeMilone even on the road in expansive Target Field.