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Oakland at Minnesota

Oakland «100000100250

Rampaging A's rely on rookies to top Twins on road

CBS SportsLine.com wire reports

MINNEAPOLIS -- Two rookies kept the Oakland Athletics steamrolling toward first place.

Dan Johnson's heads up baserunning made sure his homecoming was a happy one and Joe Blanton allowed two hits over seven innings in a 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Monday night.

Blanton (6-9) struck out four and walked two to get the first road victory of his career and Johnson scored the go-ahead run in the seventh to extend Oakland's winning streak to five games.

"This is one of my top moments in baseball," said Johnson, a native of Coon Rapids, Minn., who had over 150 family and friends on hand for his first major-league game in the Metrodome. "It was above the College World Series. Coming home like this and knowing that all my family and friends were here to see me play for the first time in the big leagues, it was just a good feeling."

A feeling made better by Johnson's heady aggressiveness in the seventh inning. After driving a ball to right-center field, Johnson saw center fielder Lew Ford had to play it on his glove side. Ford's soft toss on the run allowed Johnson to race into second, and he scored two batters later on a single by Scott Hatteberg to give the A's the 2-1 lead.

"He doesn't have much speed but it was the right decision," Oakland manager Ken Macha said. "That's the time to take a chance."

Johnson's chance and Blanton's performance were more than enough to deal the Twins their fifth straight loss.

Entering the game, Blanton was 0-6 with a 5.18 ERA in nine road starts, but he feasted on a Twins lineup that has been simply offensive since the All-Star break.

The Twins began the day having scored just 63 runs since the All-Star break, the second-fewest in the AL.

They were no better on Monday as they wasted a strong start by Johan Santana (10-6). Santana gave up two runs and five hits and struck out seven in seven innings.

It's become a recurring theme for the fading Twins.

"Another great pitched game by Johan," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Another loss for a good pitching performance."

Blanton needed 80 pitches to get through seven innings while making just one mistake to Justin Morneau in the second.

Morneau's towering 407-foot homer into the upper deck in right field in the second tied the game 1-1.

But Blanton bounced back, allowing one hit over the next five innings and retiring the last eight hitters he faced. Huston Street, another rookie, pitched the ninth for his 10th save.

"(Blanton's) record doesn't indicate that he's Cy Young, but we made him look like that," Gardenhire said.

The game was a meeting of teams headed in completely different directions. The A's have been close to unbeatable since a slow start, winning a remarkable 32 times in the last 39 games.

After a 6-2 loss to Cleveland on May 29, the A's trailed the Los Angeles Angels by 12½ games in the AL West. But they won 19 times in June, 20 times in July and have started August 1-0 to pull within one game of the Angels. They also hold a two-game lead over the New York Yankees in the wild-card race.

The Twins, meanwhile, have been in a free fall. They have lost nine of their last 11 and trail the A's by five games in the wild-card standings.

"We'll have different people in there tomorrow," Gardenhire said. "We're going to give everybody a chance to look bad."

Earlier Monday, the Twins learned that Gold Glove center fielder Torii Hunter will miss at least a month and possibly the rest of the season with a broken left ankle.

The Twins could have used their leader.

After Bobby Crosby doubled with two outs in the first, Eric Chavez hit a high drive to deep left center. Ford gave chase, but came up a step short. The ball bounced into the seats for an RBI double to give Oakland a 1-0 lead.

Had Hunter been in center field for the seventh, Johnson admitted he might not have tried for two.

"Probably not," Johnson said. "His reputation at being able to track things down, I don't know if that even falls if Torii is out there."

They also missed Hunter at the plate. When he went down in Friday's loss at Boston, Hunter was leading the team with 14 homers. Gardenhire put Terry Tiffee into Hunter's cleanup spot, and Tiffee went hitless.

Trailing by just one run in the ninth, the Twins went down with a whimper. Shannon Stewart and Nick Punto both grounded out to the pitcher, and No. 3 hitter Joe Mauer grounded out weakly to second.

"It's difficult, but we're making it look like it's impossible," Santana said. "And that's not the way it should be."


  • After the game, Johnson's teammates hung a Twins jersey in his locker and wrote 'Johnson' on a piece of masking tape across the back to poke fun at his roots.
  • The Twins haven't lost five straight since July 9-16, 2004.
  • Ford had the other hit for Minnesota.
  • The Twins released 2B Bret Boone on Monday and recalled IF Jason Bartlett. In his first game back, Bartlett was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.
Copyright 2015 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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In addition to throwing out Nick Punto here, Joe Blanton gives up just two hits and two walks.  (AP)
In addition to throwing out Nick Punto here, Joe Blanton gives up just two hits and two walks. (AP)

Players of the Game

J. Morneau
AB 3
R 1
H 1
HR 1

J. Blanton
IP 7.0
H 2
ER 1
BB 2
K 4

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Oakland Athletics
Jason Kendall, C3000102 .274
Marco Scutaro, 2B4000012 .253
Bobby Crosby, SS4110011 .293
Eric Chavez, 3B4011030 .272
Bobby Kielty, LF4000011 .280
Dan Johnson, 1B4110011 .316
Jay Payton, CF4000022 .277
Scott Hatteberg, DH3011000 .280
Nick Swisher, RF3010011 .252
2B - Bobby Crosby (17, Santana), Eric Chavez (24, Santana), Dan Johnson (14, Santana)
RBI - Eric Chavez (63), Scott Hatteberg (46)
2-OUT RBI - Eric Chavez (14)
Team LOB - 5
DP - Scutaro-Crosby-Johnson
Oakland Athletics
Joe Blanton (W,6-9) 7211241 4.29
Kiko Calero (H,8) 1000010 3.94
Huston Street (S,10) 1000000 1.38
Pitches-Strikes - Joe Blanton 80-51, Kiko Calero 8-6, Huston Street 11-8
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Joe Blanton 8-8, Kiko Calero 2-0, Huston Street 3-0
Batters Faced - Joe Blanton 24, Kiko Calero 3, Huston Street 3
Minnesota Twins
Shannon Stewart, LF4000000 .280
Nick Punto, 2B3000100 .248
Joe Mauer, C4000001 .298
Terry Tiffee, 3B3000010 .198
Jacque Jones, RF3000010 .271
Justin Morneau, 1B3111010 .253
Lew Ford, CF2010100 .249
Michael Ryan, DH3000002 .224
Jason Bartlett, SS3000020 .234
HR - Justin Morneau (15, Blanton)
RBI - Justin Morneau (51)
2-OUT RBI - Justin Morneau (24)
Team LOB - 2
E - Terry Tiffee (4, Wild throw)
Minnesota Twins
Johan Santana (L,10-6) 7522170 3.65
Jesse Crain 0.2000000 2.83
J.C. Romero 0.1000010 2.23
Joe Nathan 1000020 3.02
WP - Johan Santana (6)
Pitches-Strikes - Johan Santana 114-74, Jesse Crain 9-6, J.C. Romero 5-3, Joe Nathan 15-12
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Johan Santana 6-9
Batters Faced - Johan Santana 28, Jesse Crain 2, J.C. Romero 1, Joe Nathan 3
Game Information
Attendance - 21176
Game Time - 2:20
Temperature - 70
Umpires - Home - John Hirschbeck, First Base - Wally Bell, Second Base - Lance Barksdale, Third Base - Jim Reynolds