Twins edge A’s, 5-4, to retake first in AL Central

15 July 2023

OAKLAND, Calif. — Joey Gallo hit a go-ahead, two-run homer run off of reliever Shintaro Fujinami in the ninth inning, and Jhoan Duran pitched a sketchy ninth for his 13th save as the Twins eked past the A’s on Friday night, 5-4, in front of an announced 7,923 at Oakland Coliseum.

Donovan Solano started the ninth inning with a double to left field. After a strikeout by Byron Buxton, Gallo hit an 0-1 pitch from Fujinami (5-8) into the Budweiser seats in right field, his 16th homer of the season as the Twins retook climbed back to .500 and reclaimed sole possession of first place in the American League Central.

Cleveland started the day a half-game up on the Twins but blew a 4-0 lead in a 12-4 loss at Texas.

The A’s chased Twins starter Kenta Maeda after three innings, and the Twins twice left the bases loaded. But Emilio Pagan, Jordan Balazovic, Jovani Moran and Griffing Jax combined to throw four scoreless innings.

Jax (5-6) earned the victory with a 1-2-3 ninth.

Duran allowed a run on a one-out double to pinch-hitter Tony Kemp and two-out RBI single by J.J. Bleday before he got Seth Brown to ground out to second baseman Edouardo Julien.

The Twins snapped a three-game losing skid. The A’s, who started the night with the worst record in baseball (25-67), have lost five straight.

Minnesota was 3 for 14 with runners in scoring position and left the bases loaded with the go-ahead run on third in the fifth and six innings. With two on and one out in the eighth, Carlos Correa grounded into a double play for the 17th time this season, most in baseball.

Maeda left with a 3-2 deficit after throwing 80 pitches in three innings. He was charged with three earned runs on four hits and four walks. He struck out six.

The Twins staked Maeda to a 2-0, first-inning lead. Correa started the game with a double off the wall in right field, then moved to third on a single by Donovan Solano before scoring on Byron Buxton’s sacrifice fly to center field to make it 1-0.

Solano moved the second on a passed ball from Oakland catcher Shea Langerliers, and Kyle Farmer followed with a triple into the corner in left field to score him for a 2-0 lead. Oakland left-hander Ken Waldichuk then fanned Willi Castro and got Alex Kirilloff on a shallow flyout to center to end the inning.

The A’s got one back off Maeda in the second inning when Langeliers hit a two-out triple off the wall in right field and scored on a single by No. 9 hitter Nick Allen. Twins right fielder Max Kepler had a bead on Langeliers’ double but appeared to lose it in the sun as he leapt to make the catch.

Waldichuk retired the Twins in order in the second and third, and the A’s took a lead in their half of the third. Former Minnesota outfielder Brent Rooker reached on a single to short — Alex Kirilloff could not corral Correa’s bouncing throw — and scored the tying run on rookie Zack Gelof’s double off the top of the center field fence.

It was Gelof’s first major league hit. Jace Peterson plated Gelof for the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly to left.

Minnesota tied the game in the fourth but squandered chances for more. Farmer started the frame with a walk off Waldichuk, moved to second after a walk to Kirilloff and reached third on a fielder’s choice grounder by Christian Vazquez. That spurred Oakland manager Mark Kotsay to pull Waldichuk for right-hander Austin Pruitt.

Twins manager Rocco Baldelli countered by replacing right-handed hitter Michael A. Taylor with lefty Edouard Julien, who doubled off the wall in left to score Farmer. Kepler grounded to first to end the inning.

The Twins left the bases loaded in a scoreless fifth inning on a leadoff single by Correa, walks by Solano and Castro and a fielder’s choice grounder by Buxton. Castro’s walk spelled the end for reliever Angel Felipe, and left-hander Sam Long retired Kirilloff on a grounder to shortstop Allen.

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