Twins flip narrative on its head vs. A's

Farmer, Minnesota's bats back López after uncharacteristic rough start

July 16th, 2023

OAKLAND -- So often this season, the Twins’ excellent pitching staff has had to bail out a struggling offense -- but on Saturday, the lineup returned the favor.

Though All-Star right-hander Pablo López allowed a season-high seven runs to the A's, the Minnesota lineup started strong, then did something it has struggled to do for much of the season: It kept adding on, spurred by three-hit games from both Carlos Correa and .

The Twins scored in seven of the game's nine innings, pulling ahead for good on Farmer’s solo homer in the seventh to claim a series victory and open the second half with a rare high-scoring game on both sides, a 10-7 victory over the A’s at the Coliseum.

“Normally, we put up two, three runs and -- not waste the rest of the game, but we don't really score any runs, we don't capitalize on runners being on base,” Byron Buxton said. “It's more being accountable and taking each at-bat, like I said yesterday, like it's Game 7.”

It didn’t exactly mark the clean, no-sweat victory the Twins would have preferred against the last-place A’s, but that sense of "being more accountable" that Buxton spoke of was noticeable.

These two games against Oakland have come with some opportunities for the slumping Twins to start righting the ship, from Joey Gallo’s game-winning homer on Friday to Farmer’s four hits over two games -- and even a struggling Buxton unleashing a roar after working a 10-pitch, bases-loaded walk in the eighth inning in what he described as his best at-bat of the year.

Farmer, in particular, has come out of the All-Star break strong, plating a first-inning run on Friday with an RBI triple before adding two more first-inning RBIs on Saturday with a two-out RBI double to the gap in right-center. He singled in the third and added the go-ahead homer in the seventh off Oakland right-hander Freddy Tarnok, halting any momentum for the A’s after they erased a six-run Minnesota lead.

With Jorge Polanco, Jose Miranda and Royce Lewis all on the injured list, Farmer looks to assume more playing time at second and third base, which makes it all the more important that he continues to shake off a brutal slump to end the first half, during which he hit .164 with a .470 OPS between June 14 and the All-Star break (with zero home runs in that span).

“I'd go through a stretch where I had good at-bats, and the other ones toward the end of the first half -- it was kind of horse manure, I guess you can say,” Farmer said. “It feels good. Putting good swings on the balls. I thought about some things over the break and I'm putting it together now. Hopefully it can carry and keep going.”

With Correa’s bases-loaded, two-run single in the second inning, Michael A. Taylor’s two-run homer in the third, a double steal of second and home in the fifth, Buxton’s bases-loaded walk in the eighth and a safety squeeze by Ryan Jeffers in the ninth, the Minnesota offense scraped together myriad ways to cash in on opportunities given to it by the A's pitching staff.

The double steal between Jeffers and Castro in the fifth made Castro the first Twins player since Dan Gladden in 1988 to steal home multiple times in a season, and it’s those sorts of opportunistic plays that the Twins will need to continue applying pressure as an offense.

“Every time they put a run up, we were able to come back and fight back and at least put a run up,” Buxton said. “It kept taking that energy and momentum from them.”

The Twins (47-46) will still need to show this against a better team than the 25-69 A’s, and they still haven’t had good offense and good pitching synchronize for any meaningful period of time -- including these last two games.

But, as Buxton noted, each individual win is significant at this point. They’ll get more of those if the offense can continue putting together performances like Saturday's to lessen the burden on the pitching staff.

“Winning is the most important thing, but I'll always be the first one to hold myself accountable, too, and realize that I did not do my job,” López said. “I kind of did everything against what the offense was doing. I couldn't protect the lead. They gave me a lot of runs. They gave me a lot of support.”