Kazmir follows fellow lefty Lester with a win
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Coco Crisp's presence at the top of the batting order and in center field has led the Oakland Athletics to so many key victories.
Now that he is back from a neck injury, the Athletics are seeing it again.
Crisp hit a bases-loaded triple, Scott Kazmir faced the minimum through six innings before running into trouble, and the A's beat the Minnesota Twins 6-5 on Friday night for their 11th straight win in the series.
''On any given night it can be anybody,'' Crisp said. ''Fortunately I was able to find a gap and knock a few runs in. We rely on everybody. It's nice, though, when you're able to help out and contribute.''
Oakland owns its longest unbeaten run against the Twins, whose last victory came at Target Field on Sept. 10, 2013. The A's are 5-0 this year.
Kazmir (13-4) tossed just eight balls among his first 42 pitches through four perfect innings before Kennys Vargas broke up the bid with a single off shortstop Jed Lowrie's glove. Yet the A's turned a spectacular double play on a grounder by Kurt Suzuki to third two batters later.
''It can't get any better than that, making a diving play, getting up and making a strong, accurate throw,'' Crisp said of Donaldson starting the 5-4-3 play.
Kazmir was dominant deep into the game five days after being handed his first loss in six starts and allowing a season-high 10 hits in a Sunday loss to Kansas City.
He followed fellow southpaw Jon Lester's three-hit gem in a 3-0 win Thursday with his own impressive outing - until the Twins made it interesting.
''It's something that kind of pumps you up,'' Kazmir said. ''I say it all the time, as starters we have a friendly challenge and try to outdo each other.''
Trevor Plouffe hit an RBI single in the seventh as Minnesota ended a 19-inning scoreless streak and avoided being shut out in consecutive games for the first time this season. Oswaldo Arcia singled in a run and Chris Parmelee's two-run double chased Kazmir. Ryan Cook entered and immediately gave up Eduardo Nunez's RBI double.
''We worked some good at-bats off him and that puts pressure on them,'' Plouffe said of Kazmir. ''We put ourselves in a position of falling behind again.''
Kyle Gibson (10-9) allowed six runs - five earned - and five hits, struck out three and walked a season-high five in five-plus innings while facing the A's for the first time. He dropped to 4-1 in six starts against the AL West this season.
Gibson loaded the bases on two walks and a single with no outs in the fifth when Crisp tripled to the wall in right-center. Eric Sogard nearly caught Sam Fuld on the play, crossing home plate a couple of steps later. Sogard doubled in two runs the next inning.
Sean Doolittle retired former A's slugger Josh Willingham on a called third strike to end it for his 18th save in 21 opportunities. The A's bullpen set an Oakland record with 28 2-3 scoreless innings. The old mark of 27 2-3 was set in June 1998. And Doolittle's 18 saves are most by an A's lefty.
''In a few months once the season's over it will be cool to look back on,'' Doolittle said. ''Obviously I'm really proud to be in the Oakland record books. We have work left to do this season.''
Twins: Third base coach Joe Vavra is away from the team and will soon undergo surgery for a torn labrum in his left hip. He won't return to the third-base coach's box this season. ''He can sit on the bench,'' manager Ron Gardenhire said. ''He'll be back with us.'' ... After a workout day Thursday, first baseman Joe Mauer was set to play nine innings for Class-A Cedar Rapids as he works his way back from a strained right oblique muscle.
Athletics: Lowrie returned to the lineup and played shortstop after being limited by a bruised right index finger. ... First baseman Kyle Blanks, out since June 23 with a strained left calf, was scheduled to join Triple-A Sacramento to begin a rehab assignment Saturday.
Twins: Right-hander Trevor May will be promoted from Triple-A Rochester to make his major league debut. After Friday's game, the Twins optioned utilityman Chris Colabello to Triple-A to clear roster room.
Athletics: Right-hander Jeff Samardzija (2-1, 3.09) makes his seventh start with the A's since a July 4 trade with the Cubs. He has allowed six homers in that time.