Minneapolis, MN – The Oakland Athletics added to their AL West lead with another lopsided win over the Minnesota Twins in advance of a critical set against the Texas Rangers.
A.J. Griffin was stellar over seven innings and the Oakland bats cooled off, only slightly, in Thursday's series-clinching 8-2 triumph at Target Field.
Griffin (14-9) won his fourth straight start after holding the Twins to two hits, one a solo homer by Oswaldo Arcia that put Minnesota on the board in the seventh. The Oakland right-hander struck out six of the first nine batters he faced and finished with eight punchouts to only one walk.
Coming off an 18-3 rout on Wednesday, Oakland got a two-run homer from Josh Reddick. Reddick added a sacrifice fly, and Yoenis Cespedes hit a two-run triple to highlight a four-run third inning for the Athletics, who will carry a 3 1/2 game lead in the division standings over the Rangers into this weekend's showdown at Arlington.
"We've got a lot of options right now, a lot of guys that are heating up offensively," A's manager Bob Melvin said.
Scott Diamond's return to the majors got off to a promising start, as the Minnesota left-hander retired seven in a row to begin his outing. However, Diamond (5-11), making his first start for the Twins since Aug. 1, ran into trouble in the third and failed to complete five frames.
Diamond allowed five runs -- four earned -- on six hits and two walks in 4 2/3 innings.
The Athletics' third-inning outburst may have not materialized if not for the speed and hustle of Coco Crisp. The Oakland leadoff hitter, with men on the corners, beat out a possible inning-ending double-play grounder to short.
Derek Norris, who doubled with one away for Oakland's first hit off Diamond, scored on the fielder's choice. Josh Donaldson then walked and Jed Lowrie singled home Crisp before Cespedes drove in a pair. Minnesota center fielder Alex Presley turned around the wrong way in pursuit of Cespedes' fly ball.
"He was good the first few innings. He was getting the ball down and then I think we saw the ball start being elevated," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said about Diamond. "And when it started getting elevated, the ball started flying all over the place."
The A's padded their lead with a run in the fifth and sixth innings.
Crisp reached on a throwing error to open the fifth. Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe made a nice defensive play on a chopper, but he made a high throw to first and Crisp was able to avoid Chris Colabello's sweep tag.
Donaldson followed with a base hit through a hole on the left side to plate Crisp, who had stolen second.
Chris Young led off the next frame with a stand-up triple and scored on Reddick's sac fly to make it 6-0.
Twins reliever Brian Duensing surrendered Reddick's eighth-inning blast to right.
Cespedes went 2-for-5, giving him eight multi-hit games this month ... Griffin improved to 7-1 in nine career September starts ... Griffin served up his 34th home run in 2013, tying him with Catfish Hunter (1969) for the third-most allowed in a single season in Oakland A's history ... Diamond had gone 4-0 with a 2.41 ERA in six starts for Triple-A Rochester after being optioned to the minors following his Aug. 1 outing.