MINNEAPOLIS (CBS/AP) — Danny Valencia sparked the decisive rally with a slump-stopping double. Coco Crisp gave Oakland the lead with a clutch single. Kendall Graveman gave the rotation a boost with a solid start.
Still, the Athletics weren’t about to overlook setup man Ryan Dull and his record-setting relief.
After Crisp snapped a seventh-inning tie with a two-run single, Dull got four key outs and the A’s ended a four-game losing streak with a 3-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Monday.
Graveman pitched effectively into the seventh, allowing three hits and one run to a Twins team that totaled 24 hits and 22 runs in the previous two games. A’s starters allowed 21 runs in 20 1/3 innings over the previous four games.
Graveman (4-6) left with two outs and two runners on, but Dull had no trouble picking him up by retiring Eduardo Nunez on a fielder’s choice thanks to a slick play by shortstop Marcus Semien.
Dull then struck out two in a perfect eighth, lowering his ERA to 2.11 in 42 2/3 innings.
“He’s been amazing. He’s my favorite player on the team. I tell him every day,” Valencia said.
The rookie right-hander stretched his streak of inherited runners stranded to 36 since the start of the season. That’s the longest in major league history since the expansion era began in 1961, according to the A’s. Opponents have only one hit in 47 at-bats with runners in scoring position against Dull this year.
“I’d buy him a drink, but I don’t know if he’s old enough,” manager Bob Melvin said.
The baby-faced Dull, drafted in the 32nd round in 2012 out of UNC Asheville, is 26.
“I think the most incredible part is he never shows any emotion,” a grateful Graveman said.
Dull, through a sheepish smile, said he’s aware of his historic run but hasn’t been tracking the numbers. So how do all those late-game, runners-on situations make him feel inside, despite the outward stoicism?
“The heart gets going sometimes,” Dull said. “It’s just how I was taught to pitch. Don’t show any emotion. Don’t let the other team know they got to you. Just try and be as calm as you can out there.”
Stephen Vogt’s RBI single evened the score at 1 in the seventh against Twins starter Ricky Nolasco (3-7), and Crisp gave Oakland the lead four batters later. Eddie Rosario’s two-out triple in the ninth was followed by a walk, but Ryan Madson recovered to earn his 16th save in 19 attempts.
Valencia’s leadoff double in the seventh snapped his 0-for-17 streak, and he aggressively reached third on a grounder to shortstop when Nunez’s high throw after a slight hesitation was a hair late. Valencia was called out on the field, but the replay challenge by Melvin brought a reversal after review.
“Good throw, and he’s probably out by a fair margin,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said.
Valencia’s foot hit the base barely before Miguel Sano’s tag on the back.
“It’s one of those things if you’re out it was the wrong read, but if you’re safe everybody’s happy,” Valencia said.
Suddenly, the roll that Nolasco was on screeched to a stop. Vogt’s single drove in Valencia, and Nolasco was removed for Taylor Rogers. With two outs, Crisp smacked a single up the middle on the fourth two-strike pitch he faced. Second baseman Brian Dozier made a diving attempt but just missed.
“It’s just one of those days where one little hiccup was enough to change the course of the outcome of the game,” Molitor said.
Oakland: With right-handed reliever Fernando Rodriguez out with a shoulder strain, the A’s have 11 players, including six pitchers, on the disabled list.
Minnesota: Utility infielder Eduardo Escobar’s sore hamstring will likely keep him out until Thursday, but he is expected to avoid the DL.
Oakland rookie left-hander Sean Manaea (3-4, 5.40 ERA) takes the mound Tuesday in the middle game of the series, opposite Minnesota LHP Tommy Milone (0-2, 6.23). Manaea beat the Twins last month with eight strikeouts in six innings and only one run allowed. Milone, who won 31 games for the A’s over 2 1/2 seasons until he was acquired by the Twins in 2014, has not finished the fourth inning in two starts since arriving from Triple-A Rochester.
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