Minneapolis, MN – Jonny Gomes crushed a grand slam and knocked in five runs and A.J. Griffin earned his first major league victory as the Athletics downed the Twins, 6-3, in the opener of a three-game set at Target Field.
Griffin (1-0), in just his fourth career start, allowed three runs on eight hits and one walk over six frames. Sean Doolittle and Grant Balfour combined to hold the Twins down over the next two frames before Ryan Cook worked a perfect ninth to earn his ninth save of the year.
Gomes added an RBI single in the ninth, while Chris Carter and Yoenis Cespedes each scored twice for the A's, who have won seven of their last eight games.
Francisco Liriano (3-8) was a tough-luck loser after striking out a career- high 15 batters over eight innings. He was charged for four runs -- three earned -- on four hits and a walk in his first loss since June 10 against the Chicago Cubs.
Josh Willingham belted a pair of homers and knocked in all three runs, but the Twins lost for the fifth time in six games.
"I got a couple good pitches to hit," said Willingham of his two-homer game. "I kind of got into counts in the game early and I think that helped me the rest of the game."
Willingham gave the Twins a spark in the second when he crushed a leadoff homer into the bullpen in left-center field to give the home team a 1-0 lead.
Liriano struck out eight of the first 10 Oakland batters he faced, but ran into trouble in the fourth on a fielding gaffe from Denard Span.
Jemile Weeks singled to start the frame and Cespedes followed two batters later with a routine fly ball to Span in center field. Span got under it, but the ball dropped out of his glove at the last second to give the A's a pair of baserunners.
Carter then coaxed a walk to load the bases for Gomes, who deposited a first- pitch changeup into the left-field seats to give the A's a 4-1 edge.
"Liriano had a great down-and-in slider working. Our guys were just swinging at it and swinging at it," said A's manager Bob Melvin of team's early struggles. "He pitched well but we were opportunistic with the hits we got."
The Twins battled back in the bottom half as Joe Mauer singled to start the frame and Willingham launched the first pitch he saw over the wall in left for his second long ball of the game to bring the Twins within 4-3.
Minnesota rallied in the eighth as Willingham worked a two-out walk and Justin Morneau followed with a double, but Balfour entered for Doolittle and got Trevor Plouffe to line out sharply to second for the final out of the inning.
Oakland then added two runs in the ninth as Cespedes and Carter stroked consecutive singles before Gomes slapped a base hit through the left side to plate Cespedes.
After a double-play groundout from Derek Norris, Brandon Inge singled to center to score Carter and provide the A's with some breathing room.
Griffin has pitched six innings in all four of his major league starts...Gomes' grand slam was the third of his career and first since August 7, 2007...Oakland placed pitcher Jim Miller on the paternity list and recalled pitcher Pedro Figueroa from Triple-A Sacramento...The 15 strikeouts tied for the second most in franchise history behind Johan Santana, who struck out 17 Rangers on Aug. 19, 2007...The Twins reinstated right-hander Matt Capps off the 15-day disabled list on Friday and optioned pitcher Kyle Waldrop to Triple-A Rochester.