Athletics blow lead again, lose to Twins 3-2
AP Baseball Writer
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – No matter what the Oakland Athletics do these days, they can’t seem to come up with a win.
The A’s got a great start from youngster Jarrod Parker on Tuesday night, and their sputtering offense was able to scratch two runs across the plate, but it just wasn’t enough.
Former Athletics outfielder Josh Willingham hit a three-run homer to lift the Minnesota Twins to a 3-2 victory, their second come-from-behind win over Oakland in as many days.
“They fight. The effort’s there. Every single day,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “It’s disappointing, frustrating, the whole bit to be where we are right now. You just have to keep plugging. We were one out away. You just have to keep going.”
Parker struck out four, walked four and gave up four hits in six shutout innings, and Coco Crisp had two hits and an RBI to give the A’s a 2-0 lead heading into the ninth inning.
Side-arming lefty Brian Fuentes was brought on to close the game out, but things took an ominous turn right from the beginning. Light-hitting infielder Jamey Carroll led off with a single and Denard Span followed with a walk.
Still, Fuentes was able to get Ben Revere to pop out on a bunt and Joe Mauer to ground into a fielder’s choice to put the Athletics one out away from snapping a six-game losing streak. Instead, Willingham launched a 1-0 pitch into the bullpen in left-center field to add to Oakland’s misery.
“Well, he’s one out away. Not much else to say,” Melvin said. “I know nobody is more frustrated than he is about it.”
Fuentes left a fastball out over the plate, and Willingham made him pay.
“I’ve got a lot of good friends on that team over there but when we get on the baseball field obviously we’re trying to beat each other,” Willingham said. “I have a lot of respect for those guys over there.”
The stomach punch came one day after rookie reliever Ryan Cook’s 23-inning scoreless streak came to an end in a 5-4 loss to the Twins.
“A loss is a loss,” Fuentes said. “Whether we lost by 50 or one, they all (stink). We let go of a lead late. It’s my job to come in and not do that. I wasn’t able to do that today so it stinks, but what are you going to do?”
Collin Cowgill’s base hit in the seventh gave the Athletics a 1-0 lead, but their light-hitting lineup couldn’t muster much more while they wait to see if Manny Ramirez can give them a much-needed jolt.
The A’s left 12 runners on base and couldn’t take advantage of control problems by jittery Twins starter Cole De Vries, who was able to pitch five shutout innings while walking five and hitting another batter.
While Ramirez is working on his timing with Triple-A Sacramento following a 50-game suspension, the beleaguered A’s offense entered the night hitting an MLB-worst .211 this season.
“Overall it’s been tough,” Fuentes said. “It seems like when we pitch we don’t score, when we score we don’t pitch. It’s just what happens when things aren’t going good. What can you do.”
Things are going just fine for Parker, who has allowed more than two runs just once this season.
Pitching against a Twins offense that has scored 69 runs in the last two weeks, he routinely hit 94 mph with his fastball on the Target Field radar gun and buckled knees on several occasions with a superb changeup. He got some help from his defense, including a running, bare-handed pickup by shortstop Cliff Pennington to get speedy Ben Revere to end the third and prevent Denard Span from scoring and a nifty double play from Brandon Inge at third base that stranded another runner in scoring position in the fifth.
Parker capped his night by getting Trevor Plouffe to ground into a fielder’s choice with the bases loaded in the sixth.
“We’re in every game,” Parker said. “It’s not something we’re really thinking about. Obviously, we don’t want to lose, we want to win and I think it’s something we’re battling. Tomorrow is a new day and we’re going to move on and try to win a game tomorrow.”
NOTES: A’s manager Bob Melvin said they are leaving their options open when OF Yoenis Cespedes comes off the disabled list. The A’s are exploring the idea of moving Cespedes to one of the corner outfield positions, likely LF, and keeping Coco Crisp in CF. Cespedes’ stronger arm and comfort with the idea makes it a possibility, Melvin said. … Crisp extended his franchise record to 30 straight steal attempts without getting caught in the third inning. … The A’s will send RHP Tyson Ross (2-5, 5.79) to the mound in the series finale on Wednesday to face LHP Francisco Liriano (0-5, 8.47). Liriano will be making his first start since being demoted to the bullpen on May 9. He made five relief appearances. Ross is 1-5 with a 7.36 ERA in his last six starts.