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.
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.
Christian Vázquez added a three-run double for Minnesota, the AL Central champion that started its final home series of the regular season against the lowly Athletics.
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.
Stewart, who became an important piece of the bullpen in the middle of the summer, allowed one hit in a scoreless ninth. He 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.
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.
Blackburn had thrown eight straight pitches out of the strike zone at one point. Wallner followed by sending a 3-1 pitch for the Twins’ seventh grand slam of the season.
Jordan Diaz added an RBI double in the seventh for the Athletics, who have lost 10 of their past 12.
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. … Manager Rocco 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. He gave up five earned runs in 4 2/3 innings in his debut last week against Seattle. López started the day second in the AL in strikeouts with 228, four behind Toronto’s Kevin Gausman.
AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB
Brian Hall, The Associated Press