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OAKLAND – Coco Crisp praised the A’s infield for turning a highlight-reel double play in the fifth inning.
He praised his bullpen and also his starting pitcher, Scott Kazmir, for taking a shutout into the seventh inning of Friday’s 6-5 win over the Minnesota Twins.
Spread a little credit Crisp’s direction, as well, for his contribution to a victory that wound up being tougher to nail down than it should have been.
[INSTANT REPLAY: A's score six early, hold on to beat Twins]
Opportunities have come and gone without A’s hitters fully taking advantage of them lately. Crisp didn’t let his slip by in the fifth, when he came up with the bases loaded in a scoreless game and drilled a bases-clearing triple to the gap in right-center for a 3-0 Oakland lead.
It turns out the A’s needed more than that after Minnesota struck for five runs off Kazmir in the seventh to erase almost all of Oakland’s 6-0 cushion. But that didn’t take away from the magnitude of Crisp’s at-bat. The A’s can only hope it’s an omen of things to come from their veteran leadoff man, who had been quiet since returning from a seven-game layoff due to a neck injury.
He entered Friday just 2-for-12 upon his return to the top of the lineup.
“We do it one thru nine,” Crisp said. “We have our power guys and we have a lot of speed on this team. On any given night it could be anybody. Fortunately I was able to find a gap and knock a few runs in.”
“Their guy (Kyle Gibson) was really pitching well,” A’s manager Bob Melvin added. “He was dealing, and then really the hit by Coco sent him into a different direction. A lot of times there’s one or two at-bats in the course of a game that have a little more oomph behind them than others, and that was huge.”
But there was more to talk about in a game that took a bizarre turn from the A’s perspective. Kazmir notched his 13th victory, and he was phenomenal through six innings, facing the minimum and allowing just one hit to that point.
Then he started elevating pitches, the Twins started banging out hits, and suddenly, a 6-0 game became 6-5.
“Instead of making those quality pitches when I'm ahead in the count, I was just leaving it up and they were putting good swings on it,” Kazmir said. “… It's frustrating, but you know, we got the win. That's all that matters.”
The A’s bullpen set a new Oakland record with a scoreless innings streak that now sits at 28 2/3 innings (the RBI double that Ryan Cook allowed in the seventh was charged to Kazmir). And closer Sean Doolittle pocketed his 18th save to break the Oakland record for saves by a lefty.
Things didn’t come easy in the ninth, however, as ex-Athletic Josh Willingham – who has delivered some heartbreaking blows to the A’s in recent years – hit a deep drive that could have been a go-ahead two-run homer had it not hooked just outside the left field foul pole.
A night earlier, the Twins’ Brian Dozier barely missed a three-run homer near the same spot off Jon Lester.
“So far this series, our grounds crew has done a great job of putting the foul pole in a good spot,” Doolittle quipped.
No doubt, despite the late-inning stress, it was a night where everyone in the home clubhouse could laugh in the end.