MINNEAPOLIS -- Ron Gardenhire heard the boos from Twins fans Sunday afternoon. And the Minnesota manager acknowledged he was kind of booing himself at the same time.
Even though Kevin Slowey had just thrown seven innings of no-hit baseball against Oakland, Gardenhire went to his bullpen to finish the game. The bid for a combined no-hitter didn't last long, either, when Jon Rauch gave up a double to the second batter he faced in what would end being a 4-2 Twins victory.
|1. Barry Bonds||762|
|2. Hank Aaron||755|
|3. Babe Ruth||714|
|4. Willie Mays||660|
|5. Ken Griffey Jr.||630|
|6. Sammy Sosa||609|
|7. Alex Rodriguez-y||604|
|8. Frank Robinson||586|
|9. Mark McGwire||583|
|10. Jim Thome-y||580|
"I would boo me, too," Gardenhire said. "I took a pitcher out with a no-hitter going. But I would do it 1,000 times the same way."
The reason was simple: Elbow tendinitis caused Slowey to miss his last start. Combine that with 106 pitches to get through seven innings and there was little chance of him throwing two more innings -- even if he continued to hold the Athletics without a hit.
"We're not going to come close to risking this guy," Gardenhire said. "It's the way it is. It's sad. I'd be booing, too, because I want to see a no-hitter, but I also know I'm responsible for this guy's arm."
While the bullpen couldn't hold the shutout, Slowey, Rauch, Jesse Crain and Matt Capps combined to limit Oakland to three hits as the Twins completed their fifth series sweep this season and third since the All-Star break. Capps secured his fourth save in five appearances for the Twins since being acquired from the Nationals.
Jason Kubel drove in the first run for the Twins and Jim Thome hit a home run for a Minnesota team that will open a key AL Central series against the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday. The Twins (68-50) also moved 18 games over .500, their best record in nearly two years.
Slowey, who was congratulated by teammates, coaches and Gardenhire when he finished the seventh inning, didn't pitch like a guy who had just been skipped because of elbow problems. He allowed only five baserunners and struck out five during his masterful performance.
"I was a little disappointed," Slowey said. "I don't think it would be possible not to be a little bit disappointed. But I think more than anything I think I was encouraged.
"I was encouraged by the way it was presented to me. I was encouraged by the fact that Gardy and [pitching coach Rick Anderson] care a whole lot about me as a person and as a pitcher in the long term than they do about winning one game or having one accomplishment. I think that says a lot about them, and it says a lot about our organization."
Slowey (11-5) got out of a jam in the seventh, when he put runners on first and second with one out. Gardenhire made a visit to the mound, but Slowey got Rajai Davis to ground into a double play that ended the inning.
Leading off the top of the fifth, Mark Ellis hit what appeared to be a routine ground ball to Twins shortstop Alexi Casilla. He handled the ball cleanly, but his throw sailed well over the head of Minnesota first baseman Michael Cuddyer and into the Twins dugout. The error allowed Ellis to reach second, but Slowey struck out three consecutive batters to end the inning.
"It just looked like he was painting the corners," Oakland manager Bob Geren said. "He had a pretty good, slow breaking ball that started high, a few of the guys kind of gave up on it, and it dropped in. Then when he threw it down, we're just a touch out in front of it.
"He pitched inside enough to open up the outside part. The velocity and the movement wasn't really the story. It was just the command of his pitches."
Vin Mazarro (6-5) was effective for Oakland, limiting the Twins to two runs -- one earned -- on seven hits in six-plus innings. He has now thrown at least six innings in nine of 10 starts.
The Athletics have lost five of their past six games and 10 of 16.
The Twins took a 1-0 lead by stringing together three consecutive hits in the third. With two outs, Orlando Hudson singled up the middle and moved to third on Joe Mauer's single. Hudson then scored when Kubel's hit down the left-field line bounced into the seats for a double.
Thome added to the lead in the seventh, when he hit his 16th home run of the season into the right-field seats. The home run on a 3-0 pitch off Oakland reliever Jerry Blevins -- which was caught by a fan in a Thome T-shirt -- was the 580th of Thome's career.
"I'm just glad Gardy gave me the hit sign there," Thome said. "It worked out well."
- Delmon Young wasn't in the starting lineup for the Twins for only the second time since May 27. Gardenhire wanted to get him some rest before playing the White Sox.
- Oakland reliever Andrew Bailey threw 20 pitches off of the mound, something Geren called "a big step" in his rehab. Bailey (rib cage) hasn't pitched since July 20.
- Geren said OF Connor Jackson (hamstring) could also be activated in the next week.