OAKLAND, CALIF. – Several times Monday night, the Oakland Coliseum scoreboard promoted the upcoming 50th-anniversary reunion of the Athletics 1972 World Series champions.
As if in tribute, the Twins played a little throwback baseball.
Gary Sanchez clobbered a 433-foot home run and Jorge Polanco singled home Royce Lewis, but the tiebreaking run in the Twins' 3-1 victory over Oakland was set up by the most old-fashioned of strategies: A sacrifice bunt.
Those 1972 A's, one of last AL teams to record 100 sacrifice bunts in a season, would be so proud.
When Lewis drew a walk to lead off the fifth inning of a tie game, manager Rocco Baldelli gave the rarely used bunt sign. Nick Gordon squared around and laid down a bunt that pitcher Zach Logue fielded and threw to first base, only the second successful Twins sacrifice bunt — and fifth bunt of any kind — this season.
"It was a sign" from the dugout, Gordon said, though Baldelli deflected credit for the call. "I'm glad, because I was thinking the same thing."
Three pitches later, Byron Buxton hit a sharp grounder through the hole at shortstop, and Lewis easily scored the go-ahead run that was enough to earn their fourth consecutive low-scoring victory against Oakland. The Twins have scored only 10 runs against A's pitching this season — but that's twice as many as they have 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-run strategies are effective. Chris Archer held Oakland to two hits and one run — Elvis Andrus, 10-for-20 in his career against the righthander, doubled home Seth Brown, who had walked — while relievers Yennifer Cano, Griffin Jax and Tyler Duffey combining 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 beginning of spring training, [we said] our pitching staff 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 the fifth of his career, while Cano was credited with his first major league victory in just his second MLB appearance. The Twins' cheers were audible down the hall from the visiting clubhouse afterward, in celebration of the 28-year-old Cuban rookie.
"It was unexpected. One of the best things to happen in my life as a baseball player," Cano said through an interpreter. "I got my first beer shower and it was fun. I appreciate their support."
Archer appreciated the support of Sanchez, and not just for the ball the catcher drilled about 20 feet above the center-field wall.
"I've got to compliment Gary. He did a great job calling the game, keeping me calm," the veteran righthander said. "He came out [to the mound] a couple of times and they were both timely. I got outs immediately after, so they were great visits. It's only the second time I've thrown to Gary, [but] I think we're building a pretty nice rapport."
And Sanchez is beginning to build the type of season the Twins expected when they traded for him in March. Since his batting average bottomed out at .195 against the Astros last week, Sanchez is 5-for-15 — and all five hits have been for extra bases.
"He's getting to some pitches right now that maybe the first few weeks of the season he wasn't getting to," Baldelli said. "Impactful. Really impactful swings is what he's putting on the ball right now."