OAKLAND, Calif. — Multiple times Monday night, the Oakland Coliseum scoreboard promoted the upcoming 50th anniversary reunion of the 1972 World Series champions of the A’s.
As a tribute, the Twins played a little throwback baseball.
Gary Sanchez crushed a 433-foot home run and Jorge Polanco brought Royce Lewis home, but the decisive run in the Twins’ 3-1 victory over Oakland was set up by the most old-fashioned strategy: a sacrificial bunt.
Those 1972 A’s, one of the last AL teams to record 100 sacrificial bunts in a season, would be so proud.
When Lewis walked to start the fifth inning of a tie, manager Rocco Baldelli gave the rarely used bunt sign. Nick Gordon squared off and laid down a bunt that pitcher Zach Logue lined up and threw to first base, only the Twins’ second sacrifice bunt success — and fifth bunt of any kind — this season.
“It was a sign” from the dugout, Gordon said, although Baldelli took credit for the call. “I’m happy, because I thought the same thing.”
Three pitches later, Byron Buxton snapped through the hole at shortstop, and Lewis easily scored the go-ahead that was enough to earn his fourth straight win over Oakland. The Twins have only scored 10 runs against the A pitcher this season — but that’s twice as many as they’ve allowed, giving them a 1.35 ERA.
Yes, against the lowly A’s, whose team batting average dipped below .200 with a 4-for-30 night, even single-point strategies are effective. Chris Archer held Oakland to two hits and a run – Elvis Andrus, 10 for 20 in his career against the right-hander, doubled up Seth Brown, who had walked – while relievers Yennifer Cano, Griffin Jax and Tyler Duffey combined for five scoreless innings on just two hits.
The bullpen is “really, really good,” said Archer, who threw just 62 pitches in his four-inning start. “At the start of spring training, [we said] our pitching team as a whole, not just the starters, but the whole group is going to have to contribute. And so far so good.”
Duffey earned his first save of 2022 and fifth of his career, while Cano was credited with his first major league victory in his second MLB appearance. The Twins’ cheers were audible down the hall from the visiting clubhouse afterwards, in honor of the 28-year-old Cuban rookie.
“It was unexpected. One of the best things that happened in my life as a baseball player,” Cano said through an interpreter. “I had my first beer shower and it was fun. I appreciate their support.”
Archer appreciated Sanchez’s support, and not just for the ball the receiver drilled about 20 feet above the center field wall.
“I have to commend Gary. He did a great job calling the game, keeping me calm,” the veteran right-hander said. “He went out [to the mound] a few times and they were both timely. I walked out immediately after, so those were great tours. It’s only the second time I’ve thrown at Gary, [but] I think we’re building a very good relationship.”
And Sanchez is starting to build the kind of season the Twins expected when they traded him in March. Since hitting a low of .195 against the Astros last week, Sanchez is 5 for 15 — and all five hits have been for extra bases.
“He’s reaching ground right now that he may not have been able to get to in the first few weeks of the season,” Baldelli said. “Impact. Really impactful swings, that’s what he’s putting on the ball right now.”
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