Nick Swisher hit a three-run homer, Mark Ellis followed with a solo shot, and the Oakland Athletics staked Barry Zito to a quick lead in a 7-6 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Monday night.
Zito (14-12) pitched 6 1/3 shutout innings and the A’s pulled within 1 1/2 games of the AL West-leading Angels.
The Twins tried to rally, scoring five runs in the ninth inning, but came up short.
Swisher connected for his 19th home run with a shot to right-center off Brad Radke with two out in the second, then Ellis hit his career-high 10th homer to left moments later.
Ellis tripled to lead off the first, then scored on Jason Kendall’s groundout. Ellis fell a double short of the cycle and is batting .473 in 17 games as a leadoff hitter this year.
The A’s also welcomed back shortstop Bobby Crosby, who came off the 15-day disabled list for the second time this season -- this time after recovering from a broken left ankle. He also missed April 5 to May 29 because of two broken ribs.
Crosby received a warm reception from the disappointing division-race crowd of 15,262 when he batted for the first time in the second. He drew a full-count walk in his first at-bat, flied out in the fourth and grounded out in the sixth and felt a twinge in his ankle and grimaced when he stepped on first trying to beat out the throw from third. Marco Scutaro pinch-hit for Crosby in the seventh and singled in a run.
Zito retired 10 of his first 12 batters, giving up only a two-out single to Joe Mauer in the first and Michael Cuddyer’s fourth-inning single.
Justin Morneau and Cuddyer homered for Minnesota, which lost for the ninth time in 13 games and is all but out of playoff contention after winning the AL Central the last three years.