OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Gio Gonzalez struck out four in seven innings to win his third straight decision, and the Oakland Athletics scored all of their runs with two outs in a 5-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Sunday.
Jack Cust and Kevin Kouzmanoff hit back-to-back RBI singles in the first to stake Gonzalez (6-3) to an early 2-0 lead. Ryan Sweeney hit an RBI double in the second and Mark Ellis and Cliff Pennington then hit consecutive run-scoring singles in the third to chase Twins starter Nick Blackburn (6-3).
Delmon Young hit a two-run homer off Tyson Ross in the eighth for the Twins.
The A's avoided being swept by the Twins in Oakland for the first time since July 18-20, 1997, bouncing back from one-run losses in the first two games of the series in a fittingly close finale.
The Twins got one run back in the second on an error and Matt Tolbert added a third-inning sacrifice fly.
It didn't help having their hottest hitter out.
Justin Morneau had the flu and didn't start for the Twins a day after the A's intentionally walked him as a pinch-hitter to start Minnesota's ninth-inning rally in a 4-3 win. On Sunday, Morneau struck out as a pinch-hitter in the ninth.
Gonzalez allowed two runs on six hits and walked one in a 117-pitch performance. He threw the most pitches by an A's starter since Joe Blanton's 119 against the White Sox on July 4, 2008, at Chicago. Michael Wuertz earned his first save of the season in his first try, getting two strikeouts in a 1-2-3 ninth.
Gonalez, coming off two straight no-decisions, won for the first time since beating the San Francisco Giants on May 22 and beat the Twins for the first time in three tries.
After a pair of one-run defeats in the first two games, including Friday night's 5-4 loss in 11 innings, Oakland dropped out of first or second place in the AL West for the first time since losing its season opener to Seattle back on April 5.
Oakland catcher Kurt Suzuki took a foul tip from Young off the throat area in the sixth, giving the A's a scare. He stayed in the game after being examined by an athletic trainer.
Blackburn was done after Ellis and Pennington hit consecutive RBI singles with two outs in the third. His 2 2-3 innings marked his shortest outing of the season, topping the 3 2-3 innings he tossed in his previous start. He gave up 10 hits for the second straight start, one off his season high.
Blackburn is winless against the A's in four career outings.
Rajai Davis was caught stealing in the first for just the fourth time in 24 attempts. Blackburn has gone 94 2-3 innings without allowing a steal dating to Davis' stolen bag last September.
After being swept in Seattle to start this road trip, the Twins rebounded to win this series for a 3-4 showing. They now head home for the next nine games.
Brendan Harris singled in the second to snap an 0-for-20 stretch, then Minnesota leadoff man Denard Span ended an 0-for-22 funk with a triple to start the third.
Notes: Ellis celebrated his 33rd birthday. ... A's CF Coco Crisp, on the disabled list for the second time this season, has begun hitting off a tee in his recovery from a strained chest muscle and will taking batting practice in the coming days. ... Oakland DH Eric Chavez (neck injury) could begin a rehab assignment in about a week. ... A's LHP Dallas Braden, who pitched a perfect game May 9, hosted his former Little League team — Hoover Tyler — for Sunday's "Little League Day." Some 275 Little Leaguers from Braden's hometown of Stockton attended.