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Oakland at Minnesota

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Oakland (73-74)010000100251
Minnesota (89-59) «00001300x481

Valencia breaks tie with 3-run blast, lifts Twins past A's

CBSSports.com wire reports
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Danny Valencia is hardly looking like a rookie for the Minnesota Twins.

Valencia delivered another key hit, launching a tiebreaking three-run homer in the sixth inning that sent Kevin Slowey and the AL Central-leading Twins over the Oakland Athletics 4-2 Saturday.

The Twins cut their magic number for clinching the division to six. Minnesota began the day with a nine-game lead over second-place Chicago.

Postseason Chase

"You see all these situations coming up in the minor leagues," Valencia said. "Obviously everything is magnified up here, but it's still the same game and you've just got to go with it."

Valencia, Michael Cuddyer and Jason Repko each had two hits for the Twins.

Slowey (13-6) set a career high for wins, giving up two runs and five hits in 6 2/3 innings. Matt Capps earned his 40th save and 13th in 15 chances since coming to Minnesota.

Landon Powell homered and doubled for Oakland. Rookie Chris Carter kept struggling, going 0 for 2 with a pair of strikeouts -- he is 0 for 29 with 13 whiffs since making his major league debut this season.

Carter also came up short on a line drive hit down the left-field line which led to the Twins' first run in the fifth.

"It's a ball that I think he'd catch more often than he wouldn't," Athletics manager Bob Geren said. "If he had to do it again, I think he'd catch that eight or nine out of 10 times. He just didn't catch that one."

A stark contrast to Carter, Valencia has been right in the middle of the Twins ascension during his rookie year. Since arriving at the start of June, Valencia has hit .340 with 33 RBI and taken control of third base, a rotating spot for Minnesota the past several seasons.

"I've been more impressed with his defense than any other part of his game because he's worked really hard at catching the ball," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "And he knows how much that means to us. I thought he had a heck of a spring for us in the short time he was there. And he's probably going above what we thought he would do his first year up here. He's really playing well."

Dallas Braden (9-13) went six innings for Oakland, allowing four runs on eight hits and four walks.

Valencia connected for the second straight game, his fourth home run this season snapping a 1-all tie in the sixth.

The Twins have seen Valencia deliver in the clutch as he's hit .431 with runners in scoring position. He's done damage at Target Field, hitting .456 for the best home batting average in the majors.

"You want to come out, being a first-year guy, and you want to perform," Valencia said. "Luckily, I've caught a bunch of breaks since I've been here. Things couldn't have gone much better for me than they are right now."

Slowey, meanwhile, is trying to put himself in position for a potential starting spot in the playoffs.

Since a trip to the disabled list with a right triceps strain at the end of August, Slowey is 2-0 and has allowed four earned runs over 15 2/3 innings in his last three starts.

Slowey gave up just one hit -- Powell's solo home run in the second -- through the first four innings.

"I think part of it is just time," Slowey said. "Time and repetition coming back from the DL and starting to trust your stuff a little bit more."

Braden, who had allowed just five earned runs over his last five road starts, cruised before the Twins scored in the fifth to tie it.

"I'm 20 innings past my career max at any level," Braden said. "This is uncharted territory as far as what my body feels like and how to maintain and bounce back. But that's something you learn and benefit from, going through these ups and downs at this point of the season."

Notes

  • Minnesota CF Denard Span missed his second straight game with what is classified as a bruised rotator cuff in his right shoulder, an injury that occurred in Thursday's finale in Chicago while diving for a sinking line drive. Span said he felt better Saturday after receiving treatment on the shoulder and was available for defense or pinch-running duties. He was unsure when he would return to the lineup full-time.
  • Geren said 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff is improving, but is still considered day to day. Kouzmanoff has been out since Sept. 6 with back spasms.
  • Gardenhire said there is a "good chance" that Scott Baker starts on Tuesday to give the rest of the team's starters and extra day of rest. Baker threw a successful bullpen session before the game.
  • Ben Revere got his first career RBI with a groundout in the fifth, scoring J.J. Hardy.
 
Copyright 2014 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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Danny Valencia (left), who's hitting .431 with RISP, helps the Twins move closer to clinching the AL Central. (AP)
Danny Valencia (left), who's hitting .431 with RISP, helps the Twins move closer to clinching the AL Central. (AP)

Players of the Game
Minnesota

D. Valencia
AB 4
R 1
H 2
HR 1
RBI 3
Oakland

L. Powell
AB 4
R 1
H 2
HR 1
RBI 1
 
Oakland Athletics
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Coco Crisp, CF4010000 .279
Daric Barton, 1B4000011 .273
Mark Ellis, 2B4000010 .272
Jack Cust, DH4000030 .277
Landon Powell, C4121000 .231
Rajai Davis, RF-LF4110001 .270
Akinori Iwamura, 3B2011110 .177
Chris Carter, LF2000022 .000
   a- Jeff Larish, PH0000100 .175
    Gabe Gross, PR-RF0000000 .238
Cliff Pennington, SS3000004 .245
Totals3125228  
a-walked for Carter in the 7th
Batting
2B - Landon Powell (4, Slowey), Akinori Iwamura (7, Slowey)
HR - Landon Powell (2, Slowey)
RBI - Landon Powell (11), Akinori Iwamura (11)
2-OUT RBI - Akinori Iwamura (6)
Team LOB - 4
Fielding
DP - Powell-Iwamura
E - Dallas Braden (2, Throwing)
Oakland Athletics
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Dallas Braden (L,9-13) 6844421 3.65
Henry Rodriguez 1000120 3.42
Brad Ziegler 1000020 2.96
Pitches-Strikes - Dallas Braden 112-66, Henry Rodriguez 21-13, Brad Ziegler 15-10
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Dallas Braden 6-9, Brad Ziegler 1-0
Batters Faced - Dallas Braden 29, Henry Rodriguez 4, Brad Ziegler 3
Minnesota Twins
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Ben Revere, CF4001004 .000
Orlando Hudson, 2B4000015 .274
Joe Mauer, DH2110200 .331
Michael Cuddyer, 1B4120001 .272
Delmon Young, LF4000015 .295
Danny Valencia, 3B4123023 .340
J.J. Hardy, SS2100201 .271
Jason Repko, RF4020011 .220
Drew Butera, C3010110 .185
Totals3148456  
Batting
2B - Drew Butera (5, Braden)
HR - Danny Valencia (4, Braden)
RBI - Ben Revere (1), Danny Valencia 3 (33)
CS - Joe Mauer (4, 3rd base by Braden/Powell)
Team LOB - 8
Fielding
Outfield Assists - Jason Repko 1
E - Kevin Slowey (2, Throwing(THROWING ERROR BY SLOWEY ON PICKOFF ATTEMPT; CRISP OUT ADVANCING, REPK)
Minnesota Twins
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Kevin Slowey (W,13-6) 6.2522181 4.18
Jesse Crain (H,21) 0.2000100 2.53
Brian Fuentes (H,2) 0.2000000 3.16
Matt Capps (S,40) 1000000 2.61
Pitches-Strikes - Kevin Slowey 97-63, Jesse Crain 14-6, Brian Fuentes 10-6, Matt Capps 6-6
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Kevin Slowey 3-8, Jesse Crain 1-1, Matt Capps 2-1
Batters Faced - Kevin Slowey 25, Jesse Crain 3, Brian Fuentes 2, Matt Capps 3
Game Information
Attendance - 40847
Game Time - 2:29
Temperature - 52
Umpires - Home - James Hoye, First Base - Laz Diaz, Second Base - Wally Bell, Third Base - John Hirschbeck