The Minnesota Twins were one of baseball’s hottest teams heading into the All-Star break, and coming out of it they had a tough task on their hands with the Oakland Athletics sending American League ERA leader Sonny Gray to the mound.
After Brian Dozier sent a leadoff home run flying over the left-field fence, Gray settled in and began to dominate the Twins hitters, leaving no room for error for Ervin Santana, who was on the mound for Minnesota. But then the Twins took a new approach at the plate in the sixth inning, and it ended with Trevor Plouffe launching his second grand slam of the season and pushing his team up 5-0.
It was a very patient approach. Dozier drew a 3-0 walk to leadoff the inning and then Torii Hunter, playing his final game before his 40th birthday, rolled a single past A’s shortstop Marcus Semien after working to a full count. After not having to work for outs all night long, Gray’s pitch count was slowly beginning to creep upwards. He was able to strike out Joe Mauer, but it took eight pitches, and then Miguel Sano drew a walk after falling back 0-2 in the count.
The bases were loaded, there was only one out, and Oakland’s ace was laboring on the hill after making easy work the Twins offense through the first five innings. Plouffe’s grand slam only put the cherry on top for Minnesota and it sent them well on their way to their fourth win in a row, dating back to before the All-Star break.
It was just the second time all season that Gray allowed five earned runs and the loss pushed Oakland to ten games below the .500 mark.