OAKLAND, Calif. -- On a day the Athletics welcomed their new shortstop and turned the franchise's first triple play in 12 years, Oakland pitcher Brett Anderson managed to steal the spotlight.
Making his first start since undergoing elbow surgery nearly 15 months ago, Anderson shook off a case of first-inning jitters and looked very much like the staff ace he was before the operation while keeping Minnesota's offense silent most of the night.
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"Just getting out there and getting on the mound again, throwing a pitch in the big leagues, is kind of a relief," said Anderson after pitching seven solid innings in the A's 4-1 win over the Twins on Tuesday. "I don't think I could have scripted a better performance, all things considered. The big thing is helping the team win a ballgame, and hopefully I can continue to do that."
Anderson struck out six and faced one batter over the minimum in his return after being sidelined since June 5, 2011. He was activated off the disabled list Monday following a six-start rehab stint in the minors.
Suddenly, the pitching-rich A's are even deeper in their rotation as they head into the stretch run of the season in the thick of the American League wild card race.
"[Anderson] looked pretty good to me," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. "No walks, six strikeouts, very few balls in the air. For a first time out, I don't know how you can expect a whole lot more."
Anderson's outing capped a busy day for the A's that included a triple play in the fifth inning, the third in the majors this year.
Minnesota's Justin Morneau and Ryan Doumit opened the inning with consecutive hits. Trevor Plouffe then hit a sharp grounder to Oakland third baseman Josh Donaldson, who stepped on the bag and made a quick relay to second baseman Adam Rosales.
Rosales, making just his fifth start of the season after Jemile Weeks was sent to the minors, threw to first baseman Chris Carter to complete the 5-4-3 triple play as Anderson pumped his fist.
"J.D. got rid of it really quick and got it to me," Rosales said. "I saw Plouffe and I had a couple steps to get him and just let it go as quick as I could. That was pretty sweet."
It was the 21st triple play in franchise history and the first by the A's since Randy Velarde's unassisted triple play against the New York Yankees on May 29, 2000.
"I've never seen a triple play in person, let alone be on the mound for it, so it's pretty awesome," Anderson said. "It kind of propelled me for the last two innings."
Ben Revere singled and scored the lone run for Minnesota. The Twins have lost six of seven and fell to 1-4 on their road trip.
"Anderson really didn't give us much of a chance," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He had a lot of life on his ball. It shows that he did everything he needed to do to get ready."
Newly acquired shortstop Stephen Drew went hitless in his Oakland debut but it hardly mattered. Coco Crisp, Seth Smith and Donaldson had two hits apiece for the A's, who remain one-half game behind Baltimore in the race for the second wild-card spot in the AL.
Drew didn't get a hit in four at-bats, extending his slump to 0 for 19. It's the second-longest drought of the veteran infielder's career.
Donaldson continued his hot streak since being called up from the minors last week. He had an RBI double in the second to drive in Smith, then singled in the sixth when Oakland knocked Minnesota starter Cole De Vries (2-5) out of the game.
De Vries retired the first two batters in the inning before Smith, Donaldson and Derek Norris followed with consecutive hits. Norris' single to the gap in left-center drove in Smith to give the A's a 2-1 lead.
Anderson did the rest to win for the first time since May 26, 2011.
He didn't walk a batter and retired his final seven hitters before departing after the seventh.
Sean Doolittle pitched the eighth and Grant Balfour worked the ninth for his 12th save.
De Vries struck out three in 5 2/3 innings but lost to the A's for the second time this season and remained winless since June 30.
"I allowed myself to be too fine and I ended up going deep into counts and throwing too many pitches," De Vries said "I still have things to learn but I think the learning curve is getting shorter and I'm able to pick up the adjustments I need to make earlier."
One day after getting Drew from Arizona for a minor leaguer, Oakland optioned Weeks to the minors, activated Smith off the disabled list and put reliever Jordan Norberto on the DL.
That didn't slow down the A's, who evened their season series with the Twins at 4-4.
Minnesota scored a run in the first on former Athletic Josh Willingham's RBI single. Revere reached on an infield single, stole second and took third on a wild pitch.
Injured Twins OF Denard Span was scheduled to have an MRI on his right clavicle but was unable to go through with the test because he felt claustrophobic. Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire is hoping to avoid putting Span on the DL. ... The Twins announced RHP Carl Pavano will miss the remainder of the season after being diagnosed with a bruise on his right humerus bone. ... Oakland left-handed reliever Jordan Norberto (shoulder) was placed on the 15-day DL before the game while RHP Graham Godfrey was designated for assignment. ... A's LHP Tommy Milone (9-9) opposes Twins RHP Liam Hendriks (0-5) Wednesday in a matchup of slumping pitchers. Milone is winless over his previous four starts while Hendriks has yet to win in the big leagues. Henriks was called up from Triple-A Rochester before Tuesday's game.