OAKLAND 7, MINNESOTA 2 IN OAKLAND
Date: Tuesday, April 9.
Batting stars: Greg Gagne was 2-for-2 with a home run, a double, and a walk. Chili Davis was 1-for-3 with a home run and a walk.
Pitching stars: Terry Leach pitched a scoreless inning, giving up two hits and striking out one. Larry Casian pitched 2.1 scoreless innings, giving up three hits and a walk.
Opposition stars: Dave Stewart pitched seven innings, giving up one run on three hits and two walks and striking out four. Terry Steinbach was 3-for-5. Dave Henderson was 2-for-3 with a home run, a double, two walks, two runs, and three RBIs. Rickey Henderson was 2-for-4 with a walk, a stolen base, and two runs. Mike Gallego was 2-for-4.
The game: The Athletics took the lead in the first inning, as Rickey Henderson singled, stole second, and scored on a Steinbach single. In the third, Rickey Henderson singled, went to second on a walk to Dave Henderson, but was retired at third on a force out. But Steinbach delivered another RBI single, this time scoring Dave Henderson. The Hendersons struck again in the fourth. Ernie Riles started it with a single, but was replaced on the bases by Walt Weiss on a forceout. Rickey Henderson walked and Dave Henderson followed with a three-run homer, making the score 5-0.
The Twins got on the board in the fifth when Gagne hit a two-out homer. Oakland responded with two in the bottom of the fifth. A Harold Baines single and one-out walks to Mark McGwire and Riles loaded the bases. Weiss hit a sacrifice fly, Gallego singled to re-load the bases, and Rickey Henderson reached on an error to make the score 7-1. The Athletics threatened in the sixth and seventh, but did not add to their lead.
The Twins had a chance to get back into it in the eighth. With one out, Gagne doubled, and walks to Randy Bush and Chuck Knoblauch loaded the bases. But Kirby Puckett struck out and Carmelo Castillo grounded out to end the inning. Davis hit a leadoff homer in the ninth, but it was clearly too little and too late.
WP: Stewart (1-0). LP: Jack Morris (0-1). S: None.
Notes: Dan Gladden was the starting left fielder, but was pinch-hit for by Bush in the eighth inning. Kent Hrbek was the starting first baseman, but was pinch-hit for by Castillo in the eighth inning. Both Bush and Castillo remained in the game, with Bush going to first and Castillo going to left.
Jack Morris was the starting pitcher and went 4.2 innings, allowing seven runs (three earned) on eight hits and five walks and striking out four. One of the unearned runs, of course, came on the error in the fifth. The three runs that scored on Dave Henderson's home run were also unearned because a foul fly ball that he hit prior to the home run was dropped by Puckett in right.
Two players with Twins connections played for Oakland in this game. The obvious one is Steinbach. Joe Klink pitched the final 1.1 innings, giving up the home run to Davis but nothing else. It was one of two full seasons Klink had in the majors, and easily the best--he was 10-3, 4.35, 1.31 WHIP with two saves. His other full year was with the expansion Florida Marlins in 1993, when he went 0-2, 5.02, 1.62 WHIP.
This was clearly not the kind of start the Twins had been hoping for when the signed Morris and proclaimed him their ace. I don't recall if there was nervousness among Twins fans or if they simply wrote this off as one bad game. And of course, as the Twins had finished seventh in a seven-team division the previous year, expectations were not particularly high.
Record: The Twins were 0-1, tied for fifth place in the American League West with Seattle and Texas, one game behind Oakland, California, and Chicago.