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Lester shuts out Twins in second start for A's
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Left-hander Jon Lester said he had one main goal when he was traded by the Boston Red Sox along with outfielder Jonny Gomes to the first-place Oakland A's on July 31 for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.
"We all know what Cespedes did for this organization and how well he's liked and everything," Lester said Thursday night. "The biggest thing, coming over here, you just don't want to screw that up. You want to make the trade look like it had a purpose and it was good. You don't want to come in halfway through the year after these guys have battled their butts off to be in first place and screw that up."
Lester showed exactly why the A's paid such a steep price to acquire him, pitching his fourth career shutout Thursday and lifting Oakland to a 3-0 victory over the Minnesota Twins in the opener of a four-game series at the O.co Coliseum.
Making his second start for the A's, Lester allowed just three hits and recorded his 11th career complete game. He struck out eight, walked two and threw a season-high 122 pitches, improving to 2-0 with the A's and 12-7 overall.
A's fans gave Lester a standing ovation when he came out of his first start with two outs in the seventh inning of an 8-3 win against the Kansas City Royals. This time, they chanted, "Les-ter!, Les-ter! Les-ter!" as he pitched a one-two-three ninth. Lester struck out former A's left fielder Josh Willingham to end the game.
"That was his last hitter," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "My heart was beating over there. I'm glad he did it. I probably wouldn't let anybody else get to that point, but he's been there before. That's why we got him here. Not only is he able to pitch that type of game, he's also the guy that gives the bullpen a rest."
Gomes certainly wasn't surprised by Lester's gem.
"We're pretty spoiled watching that night in and night out," Gomes said. "Stuff-wise, composure-wise, that's pretty par for the course."
A's first baseman Stephen Vogt hit two-run homer, and Melvin became the 76th manager in major league history with 800 career victories, 307 of them coming with Oakland.
The A's (70-44) beat Minnesota for the 10th consecutive time, the longest streak against the Twins in Oakland history, and increased their lead in the American League West to three games over the Los Angeles Angels. They beat the Twins (51-62) at home for the seventh straight time, tying an Oakland record.
"Lester was the story of the night," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He was good. We had a couple of chances, but he made pitches when he had to and got out of situations. He has all the pitches."
Lester, who pitched a no-hitter for Boston against Kansas City on May 19, 2008, had a perfect game through five innings Thursday. Former A's catcher Kurt Suzuki lined a leadoff single to left in the sixth, ending Lester's bid for perfection and no-hitter No. 2.
First baseman Chris Colabello singled to center, moving Suzuki to second base. Lester struck out shortstop Eduardo Escobar and center fielder Danny Santana, but he walked second baseman Brian Dozier, whose long blast to left earlier in the at-bat went just left of the foul pole.
"Off the bat, I thought it was pretty much a home run," Dozier said. "I didn't think it would get anywhere near the foul pole. Even when it landed, I still thought it was fair. I guess the wind took it straight left. You go from a very high to a very low in a short time."
Lester got third baseman Trevor Plouffe to ground out, ending the inning.
"Everything was working," Melvin said of Lester. "You saw that early. Both sides of the plate with the cutter, curveball. Fastball both sides. You could see from the onset he was going to be tough to score on him tonight. He got out of the one jam. That was really the only trouble he was in. Once he got out of that one, he was smooth sailing again."
Twins right-hander Yohan Pino, a 30-year-old rookie, gave up three runs on six hits over 5 2/3 innings in his ninth career start. Pino (1-4) struck out two and walked one.
The A's grabbed a 2-0 lead in the third inning when second baseman Alberto Callaspo led off with a walk and Vogt crushed Pino's fastball into the right-center-field seats for his sixth homer of the year, snapping an 0-for-23 slump. A's designated hitter John Jaso snapped an 0-for-18 skid with a bloop single with two outs but was stranded.
Oakland added a run in the fourth inning. Left fielder Brandon Moss lined a leadoff double off the right-center-field wall, ending his 0-for-18 skid, and catcher Derek Norris doubled him home.
NOTES: Oakland SS Jed Lowrie (bruised right index finger) was out of the lineup for the third consecutive game but pinch-hit in the seventh, lining out to right. Manager Bob Melvin said Lowrie likely will start at shortstop Friday. ... A's 1B Kyle Blanks (torn left calf) ran the bases for the second time in three days, and he likely will begin a rehab assignment Saturday or Sunday, Melvin said. ... Twins 1B Joe Mauer (right oblique strain) had an off day Thursday during his rehab assignment with Class A Cedar Rapids. He went 1-for-6 in his first two games.