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Game #53: Danny Valencia stays hot, Oakland A's beat Twins 7-4

The Athletics have won their fourth in a row, and locked up a series win over the Twins.

Danny Valencia drove in three runs for the A's in Oakland's 7-4 win over the Minnesota Twins, scoring Stephen Vogt first on a two-run home run, and then on a one-run double to put the A's ahead for good. Vogt, Valencia, Jed Lowrie, Marcus Semien, and Billy Burns each enjoyed multi-hit nights.

In some ways, tonight's win feels like the A's stole one, even if it was against the now 15-36 Minnesota Twins. Eric Surkamp started this one in place of the injured Sonny Gray. It will be the last time the A's need a fifth starter for the next two weeks, and it sounds like Gray will return to the A's by then. For tonight, however, the hope was just that the home night game would keep Surkamp contained within the Coliseum's confines, at least enough to keep the game within reach when the bullpen took over.

And by gum, Surkamp did just that, giving up eight hits but somehow timing the right combination of ground balls and pop flies to hold the Twins to three runs in 4 2/3 innings. The A's bullpen gave up just one run to Minnesota's two.

Twins score first, A's answer back

The A's initially disappointed after Yonder Alonso left the bases loaded with two out in the first after he put the first pitch to him in play to shortstop Eduardo Nunez. While it wasn't a terrible pitch to swing at, Twins starter Tyler Duffey had been struggling to show command and threw 20 pitches in the inning.

In the second, Eric Surkamp walked Miguel Sano, but he was wiped out when Trevor Plouffe grounded into a 5-4-3 double play. The Twins got on the board first, however, on consecutive doubles from Robbie Grossman and Byung-ho Park to take a 1-0 lead.

Some poor Twins defense helped the A's reply in the bottom of the second. Chris Coghlan was set to ground into a 3-6-1 double play except that Twins shortstop Eduard Nunez missed his moving target, pitcher Tyler Duffey, and the ball sailed into the Minnesota dugout. Billy Burns then scored Coghlan on a triple to right that wasn't just a double because Sano failed to predict that Burns' slicing liner down the right field line would bounce away from him. The A's left Burns at third with the score tied 1-1.

Twins score again, A's take the lead

In Eric Surkamp's third inning, he hit two batters and allowed two hits, but somehow only allowed one run. A leadoff strikeout from swing-happy Byron Buxton helped, though oddly enough he watched strike three this time. Eduardo Nunez then reached on an infield single, advanced to second when Dozier was hit, advanced to third when Mauer singled, and came home when Miguel Sano legged out a fielder's choice.

Sano strained his hamstring on the play, and Phil Miller of the Minnesota Star-Tribune reports Sano will go on the disabled list. Oswaldo Arcia ran for him and he remained in the game in right field. The Twins will call up Max Kepler, a right fielder who is ranked in the top 60 overall prospects by Baseball Prospectus (#60), Baseball America (#30), and (#44) (h/t Roster Resource). Kepler is 3-for-19 in his major league career with two doubles.

Surkamp hit Trevor Plouffe to reload the bases, but Robbie Grossman grounded to short, with Semien throwing to Lowrie to retire Plouffe at second base.

In response, Stephen Vogt led off the bottom of the third with a single, and Danny Valencia launched an opposite field home run to the right field BBQ Terrace to give the A's a 3-2 lead. The home run is Valencia's eighth in 18 games.

Twins tie it up, but the A's reply once more

Eric Surkamp gave up a single and a double in the fourth inning. Fortunately, Kurt Suzuki hit the single, so Eduardo Nunez's double only advanced Suzuki to third base, where he was stranded.

By this point, Bob Melvin already had stirred up his bullpen, anticipating more trouble as Surkamp made his way through the Twins order for a third time. The injury to Sano meant two left-handers were due up in the top of the fifth, however, and Surkamp retired both Joe Mauer and Oswaldo Arcia.

Melvin had Ryan Dull warming, but elected to leave Surkamp in. Plouffe singled on a ground ball to right, and Robbie Grossman doubled Plouffe in from first after right fielder Chris Coghlan failed to pick up on the baseball's heavy spin. Ryan Dull came in and struck out Byung-Ho Park to end the fifth inning tied at three.

In response, Stephen Vogt led off the bottom of the fifth with a single, and Danny Valencia lined a double to the left field gap to score Vogt from first base to retake the lead. Valencia scored on Marcus Semien's two-out two-strike double to extend Oakland's lead to 5-3. Semien's double ended Duffey's night after 4 2/3 innings and 103 pitches.

Twins make it close, A's wag their finger

Ryan Dull tossed a scoreless sixth to keep himself in line for the win and Marc Rzepczynski struck out two Twins in a 1-2-3 seventh inning. On the bottom side, the A's had no answer for Twins reliever Buddy Boshers, who retired five straight A's. The A's threatened Michael Tonkin with two two-out walks in the seventh inning, but he struck out Marcus Semien to end the seventh.

Fernando Rodriguez was not at his best tonight initially. He allowed a leadoff double to Robbie Grossman, his third of the game. Grossman scored on Kurt Suzuki's single to close the score to 5-4 before striking out Byron Buxton and Eduardo Nunez.

In response, Billy Burns drew a one-out walk against Trevor May, Jed Lowrie hit a two-out single against Fernando Abad, and Stephen Vogt drove them both in to make it a comfortable 7-4.

John Axford closes it out

With Bob Melvin trying to avoid using Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle for a third consecutive night, John Axford came in to close. He was most successful, giving up just a single to Joe Mauer while striking out Oswaldo Arcia. The game ended on Trevor Plouffe's easy fly ball to right field.

The A's improve to 24-29 ahead of Wednesday's 12:35 PM contest, though the AL West swept the day's schedule for the second consecutive day, leaving the A's 7.5 games behind Texas in the AL West and tied for fourth. Wednesday's game will be televised on MLB Network.

But this Tuesday night, it was the A's 7, the Twins 4.