MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - When the Minnesota Twins left Florida to start the season, scoring runs was the least of their concerns.
Eight games into the season, generating offense has suddenly become priority No. 1 for Joe Mauer and the rest of what was billed as the deepest Twins lineup in years.
Gio Gonzalez pitched six sharp innings and the Athletics' offense was just a little less futile than Minnesota's in Oakland's 1-0 victory over the Twins on Saturday night.
Mauer is hitting .231 this season, Justin Morneau is at .185 and Young is hitting .179. Throw in Michael Cuddyer (.125) and Danny Valencia (.148) and the Twins are hitting an anemic .203 as a team.
``We have a lot of run-producers that are supposed to be driving the ball for us,' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. ``It's kind of a team thing. It's not an individual thing.'
Gonzalez (2-0) allowed four hits with four strikeouts and two walks, which allowed the A's to overcome stranding 11 runners on base. Brian Fuentes earned his second save of the season with 1 2-3 innings of scoreless relief.
Nick Blackburn (1-1) allowed an unearned run on five hits with three walks and two strikeouts in six innings for the Twins, who continue to struggle with the bats.
The top four hitters in Minnesota's lineup went a combined 1 for 15 with a single and a walk. Minnesota has scored just 21 runs in its first eight games this season.
The Twins entered the night with the second-fewest runs in the AL, while the Athletics were just two runs ahead of them.
``I know they're not swinging the bat the way they want to,' A's second baseman Mark Ellis said. ``Neither are we.'
Fittingly, the only run of the game came when Kurt Suzuki scored on a throwing error by Twins shortstop Alexi Casilla in the sixth inning, which means no RBI was awarded in the game.
With both teams struggling to score early in the season, the hitters seemed to be squeezing the bat a little tighter on a chilly night at Target Field.
``It's only the first seven, eight games,' leadoff man Denard Span said. ``I haven't panicked yet. I don't think anybody else has. It's definitely frustrating, but ... I think we're still confident in this lineup. We're going to get it going.'
The Athletics were a little aggressive early trying to get something going, and it cost them. Daric Barton tried to score from second base on a sharply hit single to left field by Josh Willingham, but Delmon Young's throw beat Barton to the plate by 5 feet to end the inning.
In the fifth, David DeJesus popped up to center field on a 3-0 pitch to end the inning, another sign that the A's might be pressing a little bit early in the season.
The Twins haven't exactly been an offensive juggernaut themselves, and they struggled again to generate much against another A's lefty. Brett Anderson shut them down for seven innings Friday before the Twins scored two in the eighth to squeak out a 2-1 win.
Gonzalez had them on ice Saturday night as well. The Twins hit just two balls out of the infield in the first four innings before leading off the fifth with singles by Danny Valencia and Luke Hughes to give them runners at the corners with nobody out.
But Gonzalez refocused, getting Casilla to ground out to the pitcher, Span to pop out to shortstop and Mauer to ground out to second base to escape unscathed.
Gardenhire chided Casilla for failing to move the runners over and Span for swinging at the first pitch as examples of poor situational hitting, but made sure to point out that the whole team is struggling, not just them.
The Athletics took a 1-0 lead in the sixth when Suzuki singled and advanced to second on a wild pitch, then scored when Casilla bounced a throw in front of Morneau at first base on a grounder by Ellis.
``When we do get it going,' Span said, ``some teams are going to have to pay.'
NOTES: During the final at-bat of the game, a fan seated in the second level behind home plate caught foul balls on consecutive pitches, getting high-fives from everyone seated near him. ... Gardenhire received his AL Manager of the Year award in a brief pregame ceremony. Gardenhire finished second in the voting five times before finally winning last year. ... A's manager Bob Geren said RHP Rich Harden, on the disabled list with a strained lat muscle under his right shoulder, will throw to hitters on Monday. ... The Twins placed RHP Kevin Slowey on the 15-day disabled list with bursitis in his throwing shoulder.
The Associated Press News Service
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