MINNEAPOLIS — With Josh Reddick back and hitting home runs, the Oakland Athletics are bringing some more muscle and a bigger lead into a crucial weekend series.
Reddick homered and had three RBIs, A.J. Griffin allowed just two hits in seven innings, and the A’s beat the Minnesota Twins 8-2 Thursday afternoon to increase their division lead to 3 1/2 games over idle Texas in the American League West. It is Oakland’s largest lead over the Rangers since Aug. 3. The teams are to scheduled play a three-game series this weekend in the Lone Star State.
“We know it’s an important series, but we’re not going to sweat about it,” Reddick said. “We know we can beat those guys.”
Reinstated from the 15-day disabled list Wednesday after missing time with a sprained right wrist, Reddick hit an eighth-inning pitch from Brian Duensing into the right field seats for an 8-1 Oakland lead. It was his 11th homer of the season in his 99th game. He hit 32 in 156 games last year.
“Being able to hit it hard ... without my wrist hurting really felt good,” said Reddick, who was also on the disabled list May 7-30 with the same injury. “Watching these guys the last two weeks it kind of stung not being able to be a part of it, but I was just hoping to come back and just jump on board and not screw up the rhythm. Hopefully, more days like this are coming.”
Adding Reddick to a lineup that already has 26 home runs from Brandon Moss, 22 from Yoenis Cespedes, 21 from Josh Donaldson and 19 from Coco Crisp makes things much easier for manager Bob Melvin.
“We’ve got a lot of options right now, a lot of guys that are heating up offensively,” Melvin said.
In winning his fourth straight start, Griffin (14-9) struck out eight and walked just one batter.
“I was working well, I was working quick, I had a good rhythm,” he said.
Griffin struck out six of the first nine batters he faced, including four straight, and lowered his opponents’ batting average to .165 the first time through the lineup, the lowest mark in the majors among pitchers with at least 130 innings pitched.
Other than allowing Oswaldo Arcia’s home run in the seventh, Griffin, who has served up a major league leading 34 home runs, didn’t have many problems the rest of the way.
“I feel like I can throw any pitch in any count and throw them effectively. It’s a lot more fun when that’s going on,” Griffin said.
Minnesota had two runners on with one out in the fourth, but Arcia lined out to second baseman Alberto Callaspo and Brian Dozier was doubled off first. Dozier had walked.
Making his first start since being recalled from Triple-A Rochester, Minnesota starter Scott Diamond (5-11) lasted just 4 2-3 innings. He allowed five runs — four earned — on six hits while striking out one.
Before the game, Gardenhire said that Diamond appears to be a much more confident pitcher than he was before his Aug. 1 demotion. In six minor league starts, Diamond was 4-0 with a 2.41 ERA.
The left-hander barely broke a sweat in retiring the A’s in order in the first two innings before the Oakland hitters forced Diamond deep into counts.
“I wasn’t able to put anybody away. I think that was the story behind my game today,” he said.
One day after scoring 18 runs against the Twins, Oakland used some two-out hitting to take a 4-0 lead in the third inning.
Derek Norris led off with a one-out double and scored two batters later when Crisp hit into a fielder’s choice. After a walk to Donaldson, Jed Lowrie had an RBI single leading to a mound visit by Minnesota pitching coach Rick Anderson. Cespedes then tripled off the wall in centerfield to plate two more runs.
Donaldson added an RBI single in the fifth and Reddick’s sacrifice fly in the sixth scored Chris Young, who tripled to lead off the inning, to make it 6-0.
NOTES: Gardenhire said C Joe Mauer, out since Aug. 20 with a concussion, did a workout Thursday and left the ballpark “feeling good.” ... The A’s and Twins are scheduled to play a four-game series in Oakland starting next Thursday. ... Cespedes has driven in a run in a career-best six straight games. ... Dan Straily (9-7, 4.15) is to get the ball for Oakland Friday when it begins its three-game series at Texas. Derek Holland (9-8, 3.17) will pitch for the Rangers. ... Minnesota’s Kevin Correia (9-11, 4.30) is scheduled to face Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer (8-7, 3.19) when the teams open a three-game series Friday at Target Field.