MINNEAPOLIS – Cole De Vries was throwing strikes.
Too many of them. Too easy to hit for the Oakland Athletics.
Chris Carter and Yoenis Cespedes each homered and drove in three runs, powering the Athletics past the Minnesota Twins 9-3 on Saturday.
Seth Smith and Brandon Moss also homered to beat Cole De Vries (2-2) and back Tommy Milone (9-6). The A's won for the eighth time in nine games to move two games above the .500 mark for the first time in two months, and De Vries watched his ERA soared from 3.00 to 4.37.
"Everything he threw was up. You could see even the pitches they were swinging through were belt high, across the plate," a frustrated manager Ron Gardenhire said.
The ball was flying all over Target Field, and the A's out-homered the Twins 4-2 on this steamy night. They've gone deep at least once in 19 of their last 20 games and have crept into the wild-card race by winning 23 of their last 36. The Twins had 14 hits and every starter had at least one, but they lost their fourth in a row. Brian Dozier and Josh Willingham each homered, but twice the Twins were thrown out at second base trying to stretch a single.
Willingham, well on his way to surpassing his career high of 29 homers, has gone deep five times in five games this year against his former team. He has 22.
Milone turned in the latest strong start by this young, surging A's rotation, which has surrendered two runs or fewer in nine of the last 11 games. He allowed 10 hits but only two runs and one walk while striking out four in six innings. He's second in the league in wins by a rookie this season, behind Yu Darvish.
De Vries, who pitched five scoreless innings against the A's in his Target Field debut on May 29, is one of the many starters who've been promoted ahead of their time by the Twins this season to help fill out a depleted rotation. The rookie turned in his finest performance yet right before the All-Star break, yielding just three hits over seven shutout innings at Texas.
This, his sixth major league start, was more like a batting practice session.
"I felt real weak, for whatever reason. For the first inning or two, I felt overly hot. So I knew that my ball was up the whole night," De Vries said. "It was one of those times where I went out there and just tried to give the team as many innings as I could to eat it up so our bullpen didn't get killed."
He said he felt like he should've been able to handle the heat, considering how well he pitched last week on the road against the Rangers.
"I know that's not the kind of pitcher I am," De Vries said.
Even the outs were hit hard by the A's, who are last in the majors in batting average though middle of the pack in home runs. De Vries got two quick outs before a sharp single by Reddick and a double off the wall by Cespedes that bounced past Ben Revere's outstretched glove and ricocheted back to hit the right fielder in the collarbone after a mistimed jump.
Then De Vries plunked Moss, and two pitches later Carter hit his three-run shot to make it 4-0 and establish the theme for the evening. De Vries lasted five innings, giving up seven runs. The right-hander has now allowed nine homers in 35 innings.
"Belt high and lukewarm," Gardenhire said.
Trailing 8-2, the Twins had the bases loaded and none out in the sixth after Trevor Plouffe stretched his career-long hitting streak to 12 straight games with an RBI single. But that threat fizzled after a fielder's choice dribbler back to the mound and an inning-ending double play grounder. Joe Mauer hit into a double play, too, with runners at second and third in the seventh after Revere ran right into the tag.
NOTES: Camilo Pascual was inducted as the 24th member of the Twins Hall of Fame before the game. The 78-year-old native of Cuba was a five-time All-Star who spent 13 of his 18 major league seasons with the Washington Senators and Twins franchise. He went 88-57 with a 3.31 ERA from 1961-66 for the Twins. ... Twins starters have given up three home runs in seven games this season.