MINNEAPOLIS -- The A's remain in prime position in the American League West title race even after Tuesday's 4-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins, but they won't be for long with a few more games like this one.
It wasn't that the A's had a total collapse. But they did a bunch of little things wrong. Limiting the mistakes to one or even two might have been survivable against a sub-.500 team such as the Twins, but the A's gave away too much.
Starting pitcher Jarrod Parker's streak of starts without a loss stretched to 19 when he left with a 3-2 lead. Afterward, he lamented the two solo homers he gave up, including one of two homers hit in the game by former A's outfielder Josh Willingham.
"Those were the two worst off-speed pitches I've thrown all year,'' Parker said.
Ryan Cook, who surrendered a two-run, eighth-inning game-losing homer to Willingham, said he couldn't have made the pitch any better for Willingham -- or anyone else.
"I literally could not have put it in a better spot for him,'' Cook said. "It was supposed to be down and away, and it was right down the middle. He should have hit it.''
The homer was out of character for Cook, whose 98 mph fastball doesn't get manhandled often. Willingham was just the second batter in 63 games (62 innings) to take him deep.
"It's a shock when that happens,'' Parker said of Cook. "He just throws so hard. But it was a matter of location. If he gets the ball down and away, it's a double play.''
The double play wouldn't even have been in order were it not for another Oakland gaffe. A sharply hit grounder by Twins cleanup hitter Oswaldo Arcia should have been well within the range of second baseman Alberto Callaspo, whose two-run homer earlier in the game had put the A's in the lead. There wasn't any room for celebrating for Callaspo after this one, though, when the Arcia grounder kicked off his glove for a single.
"I've should have had that ball,'' Callaspo said. "This field is very fast. If I had it to do over again, next time I would play a little deeper.''
Callaspo was a third baseman with the Angels before coming to the A's at the trade deadline. The A's knew he likely would need a learning curve to make the move to being a full-time second baseman, and that play is what a learning curve looks like.
And not to let the offense off the hook, Oakland extended its lead to 3-1 on Yoenis Cespedes' RBI single in the sixth. The A's had two on, one out and had a chance to go for the knockout punch.
Instead they took one to the jaw. When Callaspo flied out to medium-deep center, Brandon Moss took off from second base and easily made it to third. But when Cespedes tagged up at first base and tried to make it to second, he was out, way out, and a promising inning was over.
The best the A's could say about this one was that Texas' ninth-inning rally at home against Pittsburgh came up one run short, so the A's two-game lead over the Rangers in the West held steady.
But the A's could have added to that lead with a more fundamentally sound effort.
A's (Sonny Gray 2-3) at Minnesota (Mike Pelfrey 5-11), 5:10 p.m. CSNCA
A.L. West Race
Team W L GB
A's 83 61 --
Texas* 81 63 2
* -- Lead wild-card standings
Games remaining: 18
Sept. 11-12 at Minnesota
Sept. 13-15 at Texas
Sept. 16-18 vs. L.A. Angels
Sept. 19-22 vs. Minnesota
Sept. 23-25 at L.A. Angels
Sept. 27-29 at Seattle
Games remaining: 18
Sept. 11 vs. Pittsburgh
Sept. 13-15 vs. A's
Sept. 16-19 at Tampa Bay
Sept. 20-22 at Kansas City
Sept. 23-25 vs. Houston
Sept. 26-29 vs. L.A. Angels