MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Matt Wallner hit a grand slam in a five-run first inning, Alex Kirilloff added a two-run homer and the Minnesota Twins beat the Oakland Athletics 11-3 on a cold and drizzly night Tuesday night.
With its 109th loss, the Athletics set a record for losses in a season since moving to Oakland in 1968, topping the 108 in 1979. The franchise record is 117, set in Philadelphia in 1916.
Wallner’s second career grand slam went an estimated 463 feet high into the right-field seats, the 13th homer of his rookie season, off Oakland starter Paul Blackburn.
“I’ve got a bad neck, I could barely get my eyes to where that ball was going,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “One of the furthest balls I’ve ever seen hit. Ever. That’s 20-something years of professional baseball. Like truly like a rocket as it went into the night. A nice way to start the game off, but then the rest of the game there were some really good things too.”
Christian Vázquez added a three-run double for Minnesota, the AL Central champion that started its final home series of the regular season.
Bailey Ober (8-6) pitched the first five innings to earn the win for the Twins, who are using the final week of the season to set up their pitching for the playoffs. Chris Paddack pitched behind Ober, making his first major league appearance since May 8, 2022, after undergoing a second Tommy John surgery.
Brock Stewart also made his return to the mound for Minnesota after missing 77 games with right elbow soreness.
Ober allowed two hits and faced just one over the minimum in his five innings. Paddack allowed a single to his first batter before striking out three in a row. But the right-hander gave up three runs, including a two-run homer to Seth Brown in his second inning of work.
“The first inning, I was definitely trying to just keep it bottled up,” Paddack said. “Just so much emotion. I’m an older guy than my first go-around, but I’ve worked my (butt) off to get back to this moment in this clubhouse.”
Blackburn (4-7) gave up five earned runs in three innings for Oakland. He allowed a single to Donovan Solano with two outs in the first before walking three straight batters.
“That's not characteristic of him at all, especially the lack of command which, I figured, something was off,” A's manager Mark Kotsay said. “Find out later that he was sliding. It was kind of disappointing he didn't take the time to get it (fixed).”
Blackburn had thrown eight straight pitches out of the strike zone at one point and said his landing spot on the mound became muddy in the constant drizzle during the first inning. Wallner followed by homering on a 3-1 pitch.
“Felt like early on, the first couple batters, I felt like I could kind of put anything where I wanted to," Blackburn said. “That inning just kind of got away from me. That pitch to Wallner was just a challenge heater at that point, really. After walking three guys in a row, just trying to get back in the zone and hoping to just kind of get away from that inning.”
Wallner's grand slam was the seventh this season for the Twins, tying 2006 for the second-most in Twins history. The 1961 team had eight. Six of this season's slams have been hit by rookies, two by Wallner and four by Royce Lewis.
Athletics: OF JJ Bleday was reinstated from the injured list after recovering from a sprained left knee. INF Kevin Smith was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas.
Twins: Stewart was activated from the injured list and the team designated RHP Dylan Floro for assignment. Stewart said he dealt with a pronator strain and some nerve issues but is better and is hopeful to be back in the bullpen for the postseason. … Baldelli said SS Carlos Correa (plantar fasciitis) could potentially be activated from the injured list and play in the final series of the regular season at Colorado.
RHP Pablo López (11-8, 3.61 ERA) will make his final start of the regular season before he starts the first game of the playoffs for Minnesota. Oakland will have RHP Joey Estes (0-1. 9.64) make his second career start.
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