Josh Willingham made Brian Fuentes pay for a mistake over the plate, as his three-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning gave the Twins a dramatic 3-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics.
The Twins, one out away from their sixth shutout loss in May, had runners on the corners when Willingham stepped to the plate and hammered a 1-0 sinker into the bullpen beyond the wall in left-center.
"Most of the time home runs come on pitches over the middle of the plate. Pitchers aren't trying to throw it there," said Willingham. "I hit it well."
Minnesota was 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position at the time of the blast -- Willingham's ninth of the season.
Oakland has lost seven straight, including a 5-4 decision in the opener of the series after the Twins scored two runs in the eighth on Monday.
A's starter Jarrod Parker was in line for the win after scattering four hits and four walks over six innings, but Fuentes (2-1) couldn't close the door in the ninth, first giving up a leadoff single to Jamey Carroll, then walking Denard Span.
Ben Revere popped up a sacrifice bunt attempt and Joe Mauer grounded into a 3-6 force out to keep the Twins scoreless, but Willingham changed that with one swing of the bat.
"It's my job to come in and not do that," Fuentes said. "It stinks, but what are you going to do."
Jeff Manship relieved Twins starter Cole De Vries in the sixth and was pulled with one on and one out an inning later.
Brian Duensing retired Cliff Pennington for the second out before Jemile Weeks hit a sharp comebacker that caught the reliever's cleat and ricocheted to right field. Kurt Suzuki, who led off the inning with a single, was held at third on the play, but scored when Collin Cowgill laced a base hit through the left side.
The A's made it 2-0 on Coco Crisp's two-out, RBI single in the eighth, but failed to take advantage of three Glen Perkins walks in the ninth. Perkins (1-1) benefited from Cowgill being caught trying to steal third, then struck out Brandon Inge to strand a pair.
De Vries, in his second career start, walked five and gave up two hits in five scoreless innings...With a steal in the third inning, Crisp extended his club record to 30 consecutive successful stolen base attempts...The A's went 3- for-11 with runners in scoring position and stranded 12...The Twins left 11 on base.