Less than two months into the 2021 season, the Minnesota Twins are mired in a second major skid.
Twins starter Matt Shoemaker surrendered home runs to Ramon Laureano, Sean Murphy and Stephen Piscotty, and Oakland starter Frankie Montas largely handcuffed Twins hitters for six innings as the A’s won the opener of a three-game series, 6-1, Friday night at Target Field.
The Twins have lost eight of nine games to fall 12 games under .500. They lost nine of 10 games from April 10-21.
Josh Donaldson’s leadoff home run in the sixth inning accounted for the only run the Twins could muster off Montas (5-2), who gave up four hits and walked one over six innings. He struck out four.
Shoemaker (2-4) gave up five runs on five hits that included Laureano’s two-out, solo home run in the third, and two-run homers to Murphy in the fifth and Piscotty in the sixth.
All of Oakland’s runs were scored on home runs. Mark Canha added a pinch-hit, solo home run off Derek Law to start the eighth inning, the fourth pinch-hit homer of his career. After a two-out walk to Matt Chapman, Piscotty drilled a liner that would have landed in the bullpen for another homer had Twins outfielder Max Kepler not leaped to catch it at the fence.
Twice the Twins started innings with consecutive hits and failed to score runs.
Ben Rortvedt and Luis Arraez started the third with consecutive singles but Donaldson hit into a 5-3 double play and Jorge Polanco flew out to right. Willians Astudillo started the seventh with a double and moved to third on a single by Kepler, but Andrelton Simmons tapped out, pinch-hitter Miguel Sano struck out on four pitches and Arraez lined out to center.
After issuing a two-out walk to Chapman in the sixth, Shoemaker thought he had fanned Piscotty for the last out and started walking off the field. It was outside, and Piscotty sent the next pitch into the bullpen in left-center field for a 5-0 lead.
Batters and pitchers had issues with the strike zone of home plate umpire Jim Reynolds all night.
Astudillo was upset after being rung up on an outside fastball in the second inning, his first looking strikeout in 391 major league at-bats, and Polanco was surprised when he was called out on strikes after Donaldson’s homer in the sixth.
After striking out on a check swing to end the seventh inning, Laureano threw his bat and helmet to the ground.