The A’s turned in another one-step-forward, two-steps-back performance Wednesday.
Looking to build a little momentum behind standout lefty Scott Kazmir, Oakland instead went flat in a 13-0 loss to Minnesota that didn’t offer much in the way of positives.
Kazmir turned in his worst start of the young season, surrendering six runs (including two homers) over six innings. Not that his offensive teammates looked any more inspired. In Coco Crisp’s return from the disabled list, the A’s generated just six hits off right-hander Kyle Gibson (3-2) and two Minnesota relievers.
It only got uglier when manager Bob Melvin went to his bullpen, as the Twins added seven runs over the seventh and eighth innings.
Through 29 games, the A’s (12-17) have registered back-to-back victories just once. They’ll try to salvage a split of this four-game series in Thursday’s matinee at Target Field.
The Twins got a lift from rookie right fielder Eddie Rosario, who made his big league debut and homered on the first pitch he saw in his first at-bat off Kazmir. Rosario hit a leadoff shot over the wall in left-center in the third, becoming the 29th player in major league history to homer on the first pitch he saw in the bigs. The last to do it was the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Starling Marte on July 26, 2012.
But it was Eduardo Escobar who hurt the A’s most with five RBI, including a two-run shot off Kazmir.
Starting pitching report
Kazmir’s six runs equaled the total number of earned runs he’d allowed in his first five starts. The long ball also has bitten him in his past two starts. Kazmir (2-1) allowed just one homer in four April starts, but he’s served up four in two outings so far in May.
After two scoreless innings, the lefty found trouble in the third when the Twins got to him for four runs. Rosario began the inning with his home run. Danny Santana followed with a triple to right, and he scored on Torii Hunter’s single to right. Trevor Plouffe delivered a run-scoring single to left and Escobar’s sacrifice fly made it 4-0.
Kazmir began the bottom of the sixth by walking Plouffe, then Escobar unloaded for a two-run homer and 6-0 Twins lead.
Chad Smith took over for Kazmir in the seventh, and surely manager Bob Melvin was looking for him to get outs and save wear and tear on the rest of the relief corps with the score so lopsided. But Smith, in his second outing since being called up, found rough waters. He gave up three hits and was charged with four earned runs in just one-third of an inning.
Fernando Abad, who has struggled lately, got two outs to close out the seventh. But in the eighth, R.J. Alvarez gave up a three-run homer to Kennys Vargas for the final margin.
At the plate
The A’s welcomed Crisp back to the leadoff spot after he missed the first 28 games while recovering from elbow surgery. Crisp, playing left field, went 0-for-4 with a strikeout. Billy Burns, who dropped one spot to No. 2 in the lineup, also went 0-for-4.
The A’s stranded six in scoring position through the first seven innings and were shut out for the second time this season.
In the field
The final out of the game was fitting, as Twins center fielder Shane Robinson made a diving catch to rob Josh Phegley and end a contest that was dominated in all phases by the Twins.
An odd but revealing stat – Oakland is 1-7 in the final game of a series this season. The A’s just haven’t been able to build momentum and springboard into their next series. They’ll try to finish this four-game set on a strong note in Thursday’s 10:10 a.m. finale. Drew Pomeranz (1-2, 4.61) will match up against right-hander Ricky Nolasco (1-1, 10.13).