Gonzalez knocked around in 9-5 loss to Twins

Associated Press
Minnesota Twins' Francisco Liriano works against the Oakland Athletics during the first inning of a baseball game Friday, July 29, 2011, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Minnesota Twins' Francisco Liriano works against the Oakland Athletics during the first inning of a baseball …

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Gio Gonzalez had his second straight bad outing, and lost for the third time in four starts.

He doesn't plan to let it mar his All-Star season.

Gonzalez allowed five runs on nine hits over 5 1-3 innings and made a costly throwing error that led to Minnesota's go-ahead run during the third inning of a 9-5 loss to the Twins on Friday night.

Oakland's only All-Star this season, Gonzalez (9-8) has looked particularly shaky over his last two outings. Since beating the Angels on July 17, he's 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA.

"In my opinion it happens to everybody," Gonzalez said. "It's two bad starts, that is all it is. I want to put this one behind me and get ready for my next start."

The A's, baseball's hottest hitting team since the break going into the game, didn't help him at the plate much.

Josh Willingham hit two home runs but Oakland managed only eight hits total — three of which didn't leave the infield.

Hideki Matsui went 3 for 4 for the A's but the rest of the offense did little against starter Francisco Liriano and three relievers.

"When Liriano's throwing strikes, he's hard to beat — he was tonight," Willingham said. "We got him in a couple of jams but he was able to make a pitch and get out of it."

Liriano rebounded from his worst start of the season to go seven innings and Michael Cuddyer hit his team-leading 16th homer of the season for the Twins.

Trevor Plouffe scored the go-ahead run on a double play in the third and added a pair of RBI singles, and three other players had two hits apiece.

The Twins won for the third time in their last four games.

Plouffe had only two hits but was on base all five times up and scored three runs. He reached by fielder's choice in the first against Gonzalez, on a throwing error by Oakland third baseman Scott Sizemore in the third, and on another fielder's choice in the sixth.

Sandwiched in between was his run-scoring single that drove in Ben Revere in the fifth which gave the Twins a 4-2 lead. Plouffe also had an RBI single during a four-run eighth.

"This was not (Gonzalez's) best night," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. "He was struggling with his command at times and they ran the pitch counts up in the first couple of innings. You just go through some periods when you don't have your best stuff and I think that is all it is right now."

Michael Cuddyer added a three-run homer in the eighth, as Minnesota beat Oakland for the fourth time in six games this year.

Liriano (7-8) wasn't sharp but did enough to beat the A's for only the second time in nine career starts, finishing with four strikeouts and two walks.

The Minnesota lefty, who was knocked out of his previous start by Detroit after just 2 1-3 innings, pitched in and out of trouble and had runners on first and third with one out in the fourth and sixth. Both times, Liriano got David DeJesus to ground into inning-ending double plays.

Willingham's home run off Liriano in the first briefly tied the game at 2-2. He added a three-run shot in the eighth against Jose Mijares to make it 9-5.

Oakland's defense didn't help much.

Plouffe reached safely when Sizemore's throw pulled first baseman Conor Jackson off the bag. The next batter, Joe Mauer, hit a comebacker to Gonzalez but the A's pitcher threw wildly into center field, allowing Plouffe to move to third.

Cuddyer then grounded into a 4-6-3 double play, Plouffe scoring to give Minnesota a 3-2 lead.

The Twins opened the fifth with three straight singles to make it 4-2. Ben Revere had an infield hit, stole second then scored on Plouffe's single.

Gonzalez continued to struggle in the sixth, allowing a pair of singles before issuing back-to-back walks to Drew Butera and Revere, the second forcing in Delmon Young.

"You could see that he wasn't as sharp as he's been against us in the past," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He got behind in the count and had to come in there with some fastballs, and we didn't exactly kill him but we punched a few across here and there."

Minnesota broke it open with a four-run eighth when Cuddyer hit his 16th homer of the year.

Jason Kubel's two-run double in the first gave the Twins a 2-0 lead.

NOTES: It's the 10th time in Willingham's career he's hit two home runs. ... Matsui was honored by the A's in a pre-game ceremony commemorating his 500th career home run. ... Oakland SS Cliff Pennington extended his career-high hitting streak to 13 games.

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