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OAK@MIN: Donaldson gives A's lead with two-run shot

MINNEAPOLIS -- A's hitters have taken a liking to Target Field recently, never the shy guest at Minnesota's typically pitcher-friendly park.

Their 6-1, series-sweeping win over the Twins on Thursday brought their run total to 21 in the three-game set, and 50 spanning six games in Minnesota since last year.

"It's tough to keep saying this, but Oakland's tough. It's a tough place to score runs," said Josh Donaldson. "We come out here, and Minnesota's not known for being a great hitters' park, but we feel pretty good here. We have some guys that have some thump, and we just did a great job all series of getting guys on base.

"When you get guys on base a lot, you're going to give your team a chance to produce runs. We're giving ourselves a lot of chances."

Donaldson was responsible for one of two A's homers in the win, the club's ninth straight against the Twins. Oakland has outscored Minnesota, 86-27, in that time.

The home run was Donaldson's first of the season -- a two-run, opposite-field shot off right-hander Mike Pelfrey that broke a 1-1 tie in the third. The A's got another two-run homer in the fourth, this time from Sam Fuld, who had two hits total on the eve of Craig Gentry's return.

Fuld, out of options, could be taken off the A's roster when that happens. But if Oakland really doesn't want to lose the versatile outfielder -- despite already employing a player with a similar skill set in Gentry -- the club may opt to either designate Daric Barton for assignment or option Josh Reddick to Triple-A.

The struggling Reddick received a mental day off Thursday, while Brandon Moss started in right field in his stead. Barton got the nod at first base and drove in the A's first run of the day in the second.

Donaldson added an RBI single in the sixth and is now 7-for-19 with four doubles and a homer over his last four games, after beginning the season 2-for-22. He said after Thursday's game, "I'm starting to feel better," but also maintains, "I don't feel great."

"I'm chasing a couple pitches here and there out of the zone, which I normally don't do, but it's starting to get back," he said. "It's a process. I'd like to cut down on the amount of strikeouts I've had so far, but at the same time, if guys are aggressive in the zone with me, I'm gonna swing."

While Donaldson provided the power, Oakland's offense proved just as pesky in tiring out yet another Twins starter, while its own starter, Dan Straily, was untouchable after the second inning.

The A's plated 16 runs off Twins starters this series, including six off Pelfry, who went five-plus innings and issued four walks. Oakland drew 13 walks overall in the series, and seven of them resulted in runs.

"We spread it around," said manager Bob Melvin. "We talk about a deep lineup, and a lot of times that's the product of it. We're getting contributions from everyone, and you don't have to rely on the same guys every day."

"We didn't shy away from swinging the bats early this entire series really," Donaldson said. "It was one of those things where they were challenging the zone early, and we were able to put some pretty good swings on it. That being said, we still have guys managing at-bats and being able to be disciplined and take some walks as well."

Straily was superb, his only mistake coming on his sixth pitch of the day, a first-pitch fastball to Brian Dozier that landed in the left-field stands. Straily allowed two more hits in the second inning, but none thereafter through seven frames, walking two and fanning five en route to his first win of the year.

It came on a day when he didn't even have his best stuff in his pocket.

"But it was just giving it everything I had for however long, and it ended up being seven innings," Straily said. "It was kind of a weird outing. I definitely didn't have my best stuff, but was able to mix speeds, mix locations and just keep them off-balance and from making good contact. Even when they did make good contact, it was right at our guys.

"I think it's part of learning from last year. On days I didn't have my best stuff and try to pitch like I did, it cost me. Going out there today, I realized pretty soon I didn't have my A-stuff today."

Oakland's starters have allowed three runs or fewer in each of the first nine games for a 1.93 ERA.

"This is a tough team we played against," said Jason Kubel.

"Couldn't ask for more," Melvin said. "Anytime you come on the road and win three games, no way you can't be happy about that."

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