Rookie Pino has strong outing, but can't match Lester
Offense comes up empty vs. veteran lefty in first of four-game series
OAKLAND -- With the way Jon Lester has been pitching recently, the Twins never really had a chance Thursday night.
Rookie right-hander Yohan Pino was mostly solid, but Lester dominated the Twins with a shutout to lead the A's to a 3-0 win in the series opener at O.co Coliseum.
It was the fourth career shutout for Lester, who improved to 6-0 with a 1.21 ERA over his last 10 starts. The Twins missed out on a potential game-tying home run from Brian Dozier in the sixth, but it went foul and spoiled Minnesota's lone scoring opportunity against the left-hander.
"Lester was the story tonight," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He was good. He was moving in and out. He had all his pitches working. We just couldn't score against him."
Lester matched a season-high with 122 pitches and outpitched Pino, who couldn't match him in just his ninth career start. Pino surrendered three runs on six hits and a walk over 5 2/3 innings, and was stuck with his fourth loss.
"I feel I did OK," Pino said. "I feel I can do better. I missed a couple pitches. I left the ball up the in the zone and they hit it."
The A's struck early with a two-run blast in the third inning from first baseman Stephen Vogt. It was the sixth homer of the year for Vogt and came on a 2-2 fastball.
Oakland added another run in the fourth on an RBI double from Derek Norris after Brandon Moss led off the inning with a double. But Pino settled down from there before exiting with two outs in the sixth with a runner on second base after an error from third baseman Trevor Plouffe.
It was plenty of offense for Lester, who was making just his second start with the A's since being traded from Boston for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes before the non-waiver Trade Deadline on July 31. The left-hander flirted with a perfect game, and scattered just three hits and two walks over a complete game with eight strikeouts.
A's manager Bob Melvin decided to keep Lester out for the ninth despite being at 105 pitches, as Lester said he felt fine and wanted to go for the shutout. Melvin said he would've taken Lester out after 120 pitches but he didn't reach that mark until the final at-bat of the game.
"You could see from the onset that he was going to be tough to score on tonight," Melvin said. "He got out of the one jam -- that was really the only trouble he was in. Once he got out of that one, he was smooth sailing to the end."
That one jam came in the sixth inning, as Lester retired the first 15 batters he faced. The Twins didn't get a baserunner until that inning, when Kurt Suzuki led off the frame with a clean single to left field to break up the perfect game. Chris Colabello followed with a single of his own to give the Twins a runner in scoring in position.
But Eduardo Escobar and Danny Santana both struck out before Dozier just missed on a game-tying homer to left that was barely foul down the left-field line. Dozier ended up walking to load the bases, but the Twins stranded all three runners with Plouffe grounding out to third to end the inning.
"To be honest with you, off the bat, I don't want to call it a no-doubter, but I thought it was going to be a home run for sure," Dozier said of his near home run. "I didn't think it was going to get anywhere near the foul line. I guess the wind pushed it pretty hard to the left."
It was the lone scoring chance for the Twins, who didn't get any runners into scoring position outside of the sixth inning. Minnesota went 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position with all three of those chances coming in the sixth against Lester.
"He was really good," Gardenhire said. "We had a couple chances against him and some people out there but he made pitches when he had to and got out of the situations."