Twins swing past A’s

Published 3:20 am Wednesday, September 11, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS — For one night at least, Josh Willingham could forget what has been a lackluster season.

Willingham, who has battled an injury and a slump a year after setting career highs in home runs and RBIs, homered twice in the Twins’ 4-3 win over Oakland on Tuesday night, the second a two-run shot in the eighth that put the Twins up for good.

“Well, that always helps,” said Willingham, who had multiple homers for the second time this season and 14th time in his career. He’s hoping his one-game power surge can lead to a strong finish.

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Willingham, who missed 33 games after needing midseason surgery on his left knee, now has 14 homers and 48 RBIs, after getting 35 and 110 a year ago. He was riding an 0-for-15 skid and was down to .203 when he drilled a homer in the second inning off the back wall of the Twins’ bullpen.

“Sometimes it goes good, sometimes it goes bad, and it’s gone not as good as I would’ve liked this year,” he said. “So hopefully the next 19 games will be good.”

Willingham’s second homer, a towering 439-foot shot into Target Field’s second deck, came off Athletics setup man Ryan Cook (6-4), who had given up only one other home run all season.

“If you look at the pitch location it shouldn’t shock you one bit,” Cook said of a fastball up after trying to go down-and-away. “I literally threw the ball right down the middle, and he did what he was supposed to do with it. I couldn’t have put it in a better spot for him”

In addition to Willingham’s two home runs, the Twins got a solo shot from Oswaldo Arcia, making a winner of Anthony Swarzak (2-2) on his 28th birthday. Arcia also had a solid single to lead off the eighth, ahead of Willingham’s go-ahead shot.

“We need those guys to get going,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who was thrilled that Willingham finally made a difference with his bat. “Obviously he feels a little bit better, so that was nice to see him get that, he needed to get a smile on his face. It’s been a battle for him.”

The Twins snapped Oakland’s three-game winning streak and prevented the A’s from stretching their two-game lead over Texas in the AL West. They also spoiled a solid outing by A’s starter Jarrod Parker, who tossed six strong innings and stretched his unbeaten streak to 19 starts.

Despite giving up homers to Willingham and Arcia, Parker appeared to be on the verge of earning his 12th win. But Arcia singled off reliever Sean Doolittle to lead off the eighth. Doolittle struck out Ryan Doumit before being pulled for Cook, and Willingham followed by launching a 2-0 pitch.

Glen Perkins pitched the ninth for his 34th save in 38 chances.

Twins starter Liam Hendriks worked 5 1-3 innings and matched his career high with six strikeouts. He had a one-run lead for most of those innings thanks to Willingham’s second-inning solo shot. But Alberto Callaspo sent a 1-1 pitch 384 feet into the right-field seats after Hendriks hit Yoenis Cespedes to lead off the fifth and give the A’s a 2-1 lead.

Hendriks hit another batter, Brandon Moss, the next inning and Cespedes followed with a run-scoring single to put Oakland up 3-1.

Parker finally got into trouble in the sixth after Arcia led off with a monster homer to right. Three of Minnesota’s next four batters reached to load the bases for Pedro Florimon. But after a meeting on the mound, A’s manager Bob Melvin elected to leave Parker in the game, and the 24-year-old righty induced Florimon into a double play to end the threat.

NOTES: Oakland reinstated OF Josh Reddick (wrist) from the 15-day disabled list before the game. He wasn’t in the lineup. … INF Josh Donaldson also returned after missing one game with a sore right quadriceps. Donaldson went 1 for 4 and singled in the sixth. … Minnesota has won seven straight at home against the A.L. West. … After Florimon’s double play, Minnesota is batting .228 this season with the bases loaded. . Oakland will send Sonny Gray (2-3) to the mound on Wednesday for his eighth-career start. Minnesota counters with Mike Pelfrey (5-11), who makes his first career start against the A’s.