OAKLAND, Calif. – Kurt Suzuki got a hand as he approached the plate at O.co Coliseum for the first time Thursday, nothing too raucous, but a small recognition of his seven years of contributions to the home team.
He wasn't so popular the next time he came up.
Suzuki led off the sixth by lining a Jon Lester fastball into left field, becoming the Twins' first baserunner of the night and spoiling what was certainly on the minds of the announced 22,108 fans in attendance: Lester's second career no-hitter. That's how dominant the Athletics' new lefthanded ace was in his second start since being traded from the Red Sox -- after just five innings, a celebration was already in the works.
Suzuki ended all that, but Lester had little trouble in a 3-0 victory for the first-place A's to start a four-game series. The Twins mounted an actual threat after Suzuki's single, eventually loading the bases against the All-Star, but Lester recorded two strikeouts and induced a groundout by Trevor Plouffe to keep the shutout intact.
Lester finished with a three-hitter for his fourth career shutout. His first came with the Red Sox in May 2008, a no-hitter against the Royals.
"He's a good one, a big horse. He just keeps pouring it in there," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He cuts it, (has a) nice little changeup, a breaking ball. He's a very competitive pitcher."
Especially against the Twins this year. They managed only two hits through the first five innings when they faced Lester in Boston's Fenway Park in June, and he gave up one run over six innings.
This time Lester, (12-7) acquired from the Red Sox the morning of the trade deadline last week, was virtually untouchable until Suzuki broke the spell. He retired all 15 hitters he faced, with a Chris Colabello flyout just in front of the left-field warning track the closest thing that the Twins could muster to offense. The rest was pop-ups and routine grounders, with five strikeouts thrown in, too.
The nine shutout innings lowered Lester's ERA to 1.58 in 12 starts since June 1. Only once did A's fans worry -- when Brian Dozier launched a high fly ball toward the left-field fence with Suzuki and Colabello on base in the sixth. But the ball fell perhaps a foot or two foul, and Dozier eventually walked (Lester's only pass).
The A's provided all the offense Lester would need with a two-run homer by Stephen Vogt in the third inning, a shot high into the right-field stands that scored Alberto Callaspo, who had walked, in front of him. The home run off Twins righthander Yohan Pino not only gave Oakland the lead, but broke an 0-for-23 slump by Vogt.
Brandon Moss' slump wasn't quite as long -- just 0-for-18 -- but he broke it too, against Pino, with a leadoff double in the fourth inning. All-Star catcher Derek Norris followed with an RBI double. Pino lasted 5 innings, falling to 1-4.
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