OAKLAND, Calif. -- Barry Zito and Boof Bonser sped through two outstanding performances -- and Zito was about three pitches better than the Minnesota rookie.
Zito allowed four hits over seven innings in another strong start at the Coliseum, outdueling Bonser in the Oakland Athletics' 4-0 victory over the Twins on Thursday night to win a game that didn't even last two hours.
Bonser also pitched seven standout innings in just his third career start, but his three big mistakes all ended up in the seats. Frank Thomas hit his 460th career homer in the second inning, while Mark Kotsay and Dan Johnson also connected in the A's second consecutive shutout victory after losing 10 of their previous 11 games.
Bonser, who's still adjusting to the big leagues after his callup from Triple-A Rochester on May 17, couldn't be terribly frustrated by his first major league loss. But he also couldn't match Zito's near-perfect form in a 117-minute game.
"I made some bad pitches," Bonser said. "That's why they're big league hitters. I think for me, it was still a big step in the right direction. ... I wasn't as nervous as I had been in my last two starts, (but) it felt like I was out there forever."
Oakland managed to stay in second place in the AL West despite its injury-fueled tailspin, and Zito was formidable in the opener of a four-game series against the Twins, who lost for the third time in four games. In fact, it was a blueprint win for the A's: a dominant start bolstered by power hitting and strong relief pitching.
Zito (5-3) was pounded in his first two home starts this season, but has allowed just two runs in 28 innings during his last four appearances at the Coliseum, where he routinely dominated opponents early in his major league career.
Zito feels he's near the top of his game, and he gives much of the credit to catcher Jason Kendall.
"It's a familiar feeling, but I've (had) it in spurts this season," Zito said. "Me and Kendall are just locked in out there. He's so great at having a feel for hitters. I couldn't do what I'm doing without him."
In his 200th career start, Zito recorded the 1,000th strikeout of his career in the sixth inning, fanning Lew Ford. He struck out five and didn't walk a batter in his third victory in a row, giving way to Kiko Calero before the eighth.
Bonser (1-1), a former San Francisco Giants first-round draft pick, yielded five hits and struck out five. Oakland manager Ken Macha called him "a straight throwing machine."
"He pitched really well, and we're happy with Bons," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It was just going up against Zito, who didn't let us breathe at all."
The Twins were inept offensively, failing to get a runner to third base in their seventh shutout loss of the season. Joe Mauer collected two of the Twins' five hits, improving his average to .511 during his 11-game hitting streak.
Thomas provided the only run by either team over the first five innings, homering deep into the left-field stands high above the scoreboard. Thomas has 12 homers and an on-base percentage above .500 in limited action during his first season with Oakland, but his batting average (.229) has been one of the AL's lowest.
But the longtime White Sox first baseman still has the stroke against the Twins: He has 46 career homers against Minnesota, more than any player except Reggie Jackson (51).
"I think I'm starting to come around," Thomas said. "I had so much bad luck the first month that I think it's time for something good."
Kotsay added a two-run shot to right in the sixth, temporarily stopping a lengthy slump for the A's center fielder. Johnson, a Minnesota native, put a solo shot in nearly the same spot one inning later, stemming his own slump.
Thomas trails Jose Canseco by two homers for 26th place on baseball's career list. He also notched the 1,494th RBI of his career, moving past Dave Parker for 45th place. ... The Twins plan to recall INF Terry Tiffee from Triple-A Rochester on Friday to replace struggling No. 5 starter Scott Baker, sent to Rochester on Tuesday. ... Zito is the eighth pitcher in A's history with 1,000 strikeouts. ... It was Macha's 300th win with the A's and he trails franchise leader Connie Mack by just 3,327. ... Kotsay's homer was the 100th of his career.