MINNEAPOLIS -- It's fun to be a Minnesota Twins starting pitcher, for a change.
After toiling through last season and the first week of 2006 with frighteningly few runs, the Twins' staff found plenty of support to start their first homestand -- and not just from the fans.
"When your team's doing that stuff, it makes it easy to throw strikes," said Lohse, who gave up a two-run double to Frank Thomas in the first but nothing after that.
"It feels good to go out and pick up these guys," Hunter said, smiling about the way the Twins have erased deficits of at least two runs in each of their four victories.
They stumbled home after going 1-5 on a road trip last week and batting only .225, ready to face a team fresh from a sparkling weekend of starting pitching. But both those trends were quickly reversed.
Oakland gave up 34 hits in this series, after yielding eight over three games at Seattle. Dan Haren and Esteban Loaiza were each given early leads they couldn't hold on Tuesday and Wednesday, and the same thing happened to Blanton (1-1) in this one.
"We didn't make any pitches," manager Ken Macha said. "You get good hitters and leave it in the middle of the plate, and they burn you."
Blanton, who pitched eight shutout innings and allowed two hits to the Mariners last Friday, gave up four straight hits in the fifth. Stewart, Castillo and Redmond each hit RBI singles -- with Castillo's chopping high off the plate and giving third baseman Eric Chavez no play.
Stewart added an RBI single in the sixth after Nick Punto 's triple. Blanton surrendered 11 hits, seven runs and two walks in six innings while striking out four.
"Just one of those days," he said. "Three inches here or there, and the balls are caught. But you've got to give them credit. I thought they hit some good pitches."
Reliever Francisco Liriano struck out five in two innings. Then Michael Cuddyer homered off A's reliever Jay Witasick in the eighth, putting the cap on a productive series. The Twins, who ranked last in the AL in runs last season and were third-to-last in homers, hit six balls over the wall against Oakland.
"I think we can go pound for pound with any team," said Hunter, who has 11 RBI.
Lohse (1-1) made up for a bad first start by giving up only five hits, two walks and two runs while striking out two. The A's only had the lead for a few minutes in the first inning.
Castillo singled and scored on a double by his former Florida teammate, Redmond. After Rondell White reached on a fielder's choice, Hunter homered on a first-pitch fastball from Blanton to make it 3-2 in the bottom half.
Renewed when he returned to the mound, Lohse retired eight straight and later escaped a two-on, no-out pickle in the fifth without letting Oakland score.
It was a refreshing change from the recent past, when Lohse, Carlos Silva, Brad Radke and Johan Santana routinely found themselves losing close, low-scoring games and trying -- sometimes unsuccessfully -- to hold in the frustration.
This was actually Minnesota's first quality start out of nine this year.
"Maybe it broke the seal," Lohse said. "We've got a pretty good pitching staff. I don't think it's going to be a problem the rest of the year."
Not if they keep getting this kind of support.
Oakland, meanwhile, is struggling to hit. Mark Kotsay, one of the few regulars who hasn't, got his first day off to stay away from back problems on the Metrodome's artificial grass. Thomas, who has six RBI despite a .138 average, did his part, but the rest of the lineup was silent.
Dan Johnson, one of Liriano's three strikeout victims in the seventh, is now 0-for-26 this season.
"It's disappointing," outfielder Nick Swisher said. "We've been playing good baseball."
- Witasick rolled his left ankle at the end of the inning after stepping off first while covering the base to retire Punto on a grounder. Witasick, taken off the field on a cart and sent for X-rays later, sat in front of his cubicle with significant swelling. "I hope it's not anything more than a simple sprain," he said.
- The Twins' last sweep of the A's was here, a four-game set on July 17-20, 2003.