Twins turn to Hughes in opener with A's

( - Phil Hughes will look to shake off a recent hip issue and secure his first victory of the season on Monday night when the Minnesota Twins open a four-game set with the Oakland Athletics.

Hughes dropped four consecutive starts to open the year before not factoring into Wednesday's 10-7 loss to Detroit. The right-hander exited after five innings due to a mild left hip flexor having allowed three runs on seven hits with no walks.

"It's unfortunate," said Hughes. "I felt like I had good stuff early."

Hughes, who has a 4.55 earned run average on the year, threw a bullpen session with no issue on Friday.

The 28-year-old is 4-2 lifetime against Oakland with a 4.20 ERA in 12 games (9 starts).

Minnesota is coming off a four-game sweep of the Chicago White Sox, taking Sunday's finale 13-3. Trevor Plouffe connected on a grand slam and finished with five RBI to pace the offense.

"He's kind of one of those guys who tries to drive the ball gap to gap and when he's getting mistakes he's taking advantage," Minnesota manager Paul Molitor said of Plouffe.

Kennys Vargas went 2-for-5 with a solo home run and two runs scored, and Danny Santana drove in two runs for the Twins, who have won seven of their last nine to move above .500 (13-12) for the first time this season.

The 13-run burst helped Minnesota overcome some issues on the mound for Mike Pelfrey, who had to be pulled with one out in the fourth inning after hitting three batters in the frame. Two of those came with the bases loaded.

Oakland saw some similar control issues from its starter on Sunday, but like Minnesota the Athletics came away with a victory.

Sonny Gray countered a career-high seven walks with a season-best 10 strikeouts as the A's topped the Texas Rangers 7-1. He did not allow a run over 6 2/3 innings and improved to 4-0 with a 1.67 ERA.

"He finds a way to use what he has on a particular day," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said of Gray. "He's worked himself into being a true No. 1 (starter)."

The offense provided plenty of cushion for the right-hander on Sunday, with Stephen Vogt cracking two homers and driving in a career-high four runs and Josh Reddick adding a two-run blast.

Oakland took two of three in the series to begin a 10-game road trip.

The A's will send Jesse Hahn to the mound for tonight's opener and he is 1-1 on the year with a 2.86 ERA through four starts.

Hahn won his first game of the season on April 18 in Kansas City, though a blister forced him out of that contest after 5 1/3 scoreless innings. He had his next turn skipped before making the start against the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday, a 6-3 loss in which Hahn got a no-decision.

The righty yielded three runs on four hits and a walk over five innings versus the Angels, striking out six.

Hahn lost his only other start versus the Twins, allowing three runs over 5 2/3 innings.

Oakland has won 12 of 13 and 17 of its last 20 against the Twins while winning five in a row in Minnesota.