OAKLAND, Calif.--It was slump-buster night for Oakland A's hitters at the Coliseum on Thursday, not that Jon Lester needed all that many bats to come alive.
Lester threw five perfect innings and wound up tossing a three-hit shutout as Oakland whipped the Minnesota Twins for the 10th straight time, 3-0, and expanded its American League West lead to three games.
Three Athletics who had been hitless for the homestand--Stephen Vogt, Brandon Moss and John Jaso--all broke through, and the guy with the longest dry spell, Vogt, delivered the key blow.
After Alberto Callaspo walked to open the third inning, Vogt came to the plate riding an 0-for-23 slump but cranked a 2-2 Yohan Pino pitch over the right field wall to give Oakland a 2-0 lead. Jaso, 0 for his last 18, subsequently singled in the inning but did not score.
In the fourth, it was Moss' turn to get off the schneid. He hit a ball off the top of the high wall in right field, just missing a homer but happily settling for a double. He also came into his at-bat 0 for 18, and he came around to score on Derek Norris' double into the left field corner.
Norris' hit provided the A's a 3-0 lead, and that was more than enough for Lester (2-0 with Oakland, 12-7 overall), who was dominant through the first half of the game and just a bit fortunate in the second half of it.
The veteran left-hander set down the first 15 batters he faced--striking out five in the process -- -- until former Athletic Kurt Suzuki lined a 1-1 pitch over shortstop Eric Sogard for the first Minnesota hit of the game.
But the Twins weren't done. Chris Colabello followed with a single to center, and after Lester struck out Eduardo Escobar and leadoff hitter Danny Santana, Brian Dozier teed off on the first pitch he saw and hit a deep fly down the line that looked like it might be a three-run homer. But the ball just missed hitting the left field foul pole and sailed harmlessly into the stands for a long strike.
Dozier wound up walking to load the bases, but Lester then retired Trevor Plouffe on a chopper to third base.
Despite allowing a leadoff walk to Colabello in the eighth, Lester quickly received a nifty double play turn from Sogard and got through the inning unscathed, then pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to complete his 122-pitch (83 strikes) night. He walked two and struck out eight.
Lester continued his astounding run dating back to June 12 while still with Boston. He is 6-0 in his last 10 starts with a 1.21 ERA and has allowed just one home run over 741/3 innings, walking 12 and striking out 64.
The A's three-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels, who lost to the Dodgers for the third straight game, is their largest since July 24.
The 10th straight victory over the Twins dating back to last year broke the Oakland franchise record of nine in a row set during the 1980 and 1981 seasons. The all-time franchise record is 11 straight over the then-Washington Senators in 1929.
--Shortstop Jed Lowrie didn't start for the third consecutive game due a bruised right index finger, but he did pinch-hit in the seventh. Manager Bob Melvin said Lowrie probably could have played in the field but wanted to give him another day's rest and added he almost certainly would start Friday night. Lowrie said the finger felt much better but said he was still a bit concerned about throwing.
--First baseman Kyle Blanks (calf) is scheduled to go out on a rehab assignment either Friday or Saturday. As for Nick Punto (hamstring), Melvin said it's probably unlikely the infielder would be ready to come off the 15-day disabled list when eligible on Aug. 18.
--The A's did not score in the first inning for the 16th consecutive game dating back to July 20 against Baltimore.
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