It was the first time since June 5, 2011 that Brett Anderson stepped onto a Major League mound to pitch in a game, and he made sure to remind everyone just what he’s capable of. Anderson shook off some first inning jitters that cost him a run that came on a wild pitch, but after that he was simply dominant against the Minnesota Twins. He retired the next 9 batters he faced before getting himself into a little trouble in the 5th inning, more on that in a moment. The A’s saw a bit of a reshuffled lineup tonight as the returning Seth Smith took the DH role, and newly acquired SS Stephen Drew bat in the 2 spot. Notably absent from the lineup was 2B Jemile Weeks, who was optioned to Sacramento to help make room for Stephen Drew (Lefty Reliever Jordan Norberto was placed on the 15 day DL to free up the other roster spot). Adam Rosales played second base tonight, and did well to endear himself to that position. Josh Donaldson continued his torrid hitting since his call up with 2 more hits including an RBI double to tie the game in the 2nd inning.
The game remained tied until the late innings as Anderson and Cole De Vries dueled, but back to the top of the 5th inning where after retiring 9 in a row Brett Anderson got into trouble after allowing 2 singles to start the inning. Trevor Plouffe came to the plate with a big chance to put a hurt on Anderson and give the Twins back the lead. Plouffe smacked a hard chopper down the 3rd base line to the waiting glove of Josh Donaldson who fired it to Adam Rosales at 2nd, and Rosales did an incredible job hanging in there and made an acrobatic throw with just enough on it to nab Plouffe at 1st for a triple play to erase the threat in an instant. This was the first triple play the A’s had turned since Randy Velarde’s unassisted version at Yankee Stadium in 2000, and even more amazing the first at the Coliseum since 1983.
The A’s didn’t immediately capture that momentum they had gained with the tripe play, but in the bottom of the 6th inning after singles from Seth Smith and Josh Donaldson, Derek Norris came to the plate with a chance to put the A’s in the lead with a 2 out base hit. He delivered in the clutch and gave the A’s a 2-1 lead that they would never relinquish. A Josh Reddick bloop RBI single and a Chris Carter RBI double in the 7th inning gave the A’s some much appreciated breathing room, then Sean Doolittle and Grant Balfour shut down the Twins for the victory.
Brett Anderson looked like he hadn’t missed a start in the last 14 months, he pitched 7 strong innings and only allowed 4 hits, no walks, and struck out 6. He only threw 86 pitches and faced just 1 batter over the minimum thanks to the 5th inning triple play. A dazzling return to the bigs for Anderson, and surely a major shot in the arm for the A’s pitching staff moving forward.
New shortstop Stephen Drew didn’t really do much today, he popped out, flew out, struck out, and grounded out in his 4 at bats tonight. Considering the whirlwind 24 hours he must have had I’ll certainly give him a pass for that. It’s certainly a bit odd to see him in an A’s uniform after so many years with Arizona, but once he gets comfortable he’ll do fine for the A’s.
The A’s win moves them back within 5 games of the Texas Rangers who lost to the Baltimore Orioles tonight, and with the Tampa Bay Rays loss to the Kansas City Royals both the A’s and the O’s gain a game on them in the wildcard race with the A’s still 1/2 game behind the Orioles.
Tommy Milone (9-9, 4.03 ERA) takes the hill tomorrow as he continues his quest to regain his home dominance as the Twins will send Liam Hendriks who is 0-5 with an ERA of 7.04 this year. The A’s can take this series and reach a new high watermark for the season of 11 games over .500 as they head to Tampa for a pretty important series against the Rays.