MINNEAPOLIS -- Whenever the A’s take the field for a game against the Twins this season, a glance over to the opposing dugout is almost as if they’re staring at a mirror.
Both clubs possess loads of power up and down the lineup. Both have received strong performances from each member of their starting rotations. So it’s no coincidence they’ve played each other close in every matchup, and Saturday night may have been the most thrilling of them all.
The A’s 5-4 victory over the Twins was capped off with a ninth inning that was about as dramatic as you’ll see this year.
“It was a pretty spirited game overall,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Both sides back and forth. About as close a game as you can get.”
Down to their final out and facing a one-run deficit with Twins closer Taylor Rogers on the mound, Khris Davis lined a screaming single that bounced off Ehire Adrianza’s glove at first base and allowed two go-ahead runs to score. But that was only the beginning.
A’s All-Star closer Liam Hendriks came on in the bottom half and immediately found himself in danger as back-to-back one-out hits and an intentional walk loaded the bases for the Twins. Usually reliant on his blazing fastball to rack up the strikeouts, the right-hander needed a ground ball more than ever and got it on a first-pitch fastball that Mitch Garver smashed to Marcus Semien at short for a double play, securing Hendriks' eighth save of the season.
“Overall, to come back like that in the ninth, this might be the best team win we’ve had all year,” A’s starter Brett Anderson said. “Two quality ballclubs who are pretty similar. These first three games have shown that.”
In six meetings between the A’s and Twins this season, Oakland has taken four of those, but it hasn’t been easy. Four of the games have been decided by one or two runs. Given their places in the standings, the A’s now tied for the first American League Wild Card and the Twins leading the AL Central, A’s players are well aware that Sunday’s series finale might not be the last time they face off against each other in 2019.
“They’re a good team. Every game has been a battle,” Davis said. “We know what we have ahead of us and we’re just going to play our ballgame.”
Winning these types of games often requires clutch moments from your top players, and nobody needed to come through in this type of situation more than Davis.
Going through his longest home run drought since joining the A’s in 2016, now at 22 games after Saturday night’s win, Davis has been looking for that one big hit to get him back on track. His booming single that was clocked as the hardest hit ball by an A’s player on the night at 105.9 mph, according to Statcast, could certainly qualify.
“I think most of all, this was big for Khris,” Melvin said. “He’s come up big in those situations so many times for us. If anybody needed a little bit of a spark, that would be Khris.”
Entering the night batting .216 over the homerless stretch, Davis will take the single, even if there was a bit of luck involved with the ball sailing into the outfield. He was more impressed with the effort shown by Ramon Laureano, who along with Mark Canha reached base with two outs before Davis and scored all the way from first base on the play.
“It was just a feeling of relief,” Davis said. “Then I see Ramon hustling around third, and I was like, ‘Dang, he’s fast.’”
Laureano and Canha were also responsible for getting the A’s on the board in the seventh as they each homered back-to-back, with Laureano’s solo shot giving the A’s a one-run lead following Canha’s two-run homer.
As locked in at the plate as anybody in the Majors for the month, Laureano’s 3-for-5 night puts him at a .469 batting average with seven home runs, seven doubles and 14 RBIs in July.
“Ramon is on a tear right now and hitting behind him is fun,” Davis said. “He’s meant a lot.”
Anderson solid despite home run bug
Anderson only allowed four hits over six innings, but three of those hits were home runs, something he’s been immune to for the most part as he entered the night having allowed only 11 in his previous 19 starts this season.
Part of Anderson’s issues with the long ball were the result of what he said was a peeling of his left middle fingernail that limited him to mostly offspeed pitches. Still, it was another quality outing for the left-hander as he’s now allowed three earned runs or fewer in 10 of his last 11 starts.