Twins’ offense awakens

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MINNEAPOLIS – The Minnesota Twins must have left their good bats at home.

Tony Batista woke up the offense with a three-run homer, and the Twins started the season’s second week in better fashion than the first by beating the Oakland Athletics 7-6 in their home opener.

Eric Chavez hit a two-run shot, his second homer of the game and fifth of the year, in the eighth inning against Jesse Crain to pull Oakland within one. Joe Nathan pitched a hitless ninth for his first save.

Bobby Crosby also homered for the A’s, who saw their run of strong starting pitching end with a bad night for Dan Haren (1-1).

Brad Radke (2-0), who started his team-record ninth home opener, has been on the mound the only two times the Twins have hit much this year – and the only two times they’ve won.

Persevering through a three-run second and overcoming a 4-0 deficit, Radke gave up six hits, four runs and one walk in seven innings while striking out five.

Justin Morneau also homered and Joe Mauer had two RBIs for Minnesota, which scored six times in the third against Haren.

Taking away their 13-4 victory over Toronto last week, the Twins were averaging just 2.8 runs per game after going 1-5 on a road trip to start the season.

The usual home opener hoopla plus a final ceremony for the late Kirby Puckett pushed the start back 20 minutes. Video from Puckett’s career and last month’s memorial service was shown, and former teammate Jack Morris read a tribute to his fellow star in the 1991 World Series.

Puckett’s children, Catherine and Kirby Jr., threw ceremonial first pitches to Twins center fielder Torii Hunter and A’s third base coach Ron Washington – both close friends of the Hall of Famer, who died on March 6 following a stroke.

A large, red No. 34 has been painted in center for the team’s first homestand, and players are wearing a patch with Puckett’s old uniform number on their sleeves all season. The crowd of 48,911 – the sixth straight sellout for Minnesota’s first home game – cheered loudly during the periodic shots of Puckett on the scoreboard.

Radke has often struggled in the first, but he delayed his difficulties by one inning. Chavez started the second with a home run that Hunter just missed making a Puckett-like catch on over the wall in center.

A close, full-count walk to Frank Thomas and a pitch that grazed Jason Kendall’s arm helped load the bases for Nick Swisher, who hit a two-run double. Crosby’s line drive cleared the wall in left leading off the third to give Oakland a 4-0 lead.

But the Twins played good defense behind Radke, including a couple of smooth pickups by second baseman Luis Castillo and a diving catch in right field by Michael Cuddyer.

And then their bats finally got going.

Mauer hit a two-run single to spark the rally in the third, and Hunter added an RBI single. Batista came through with the big drive, on a 1-0 pitch near his neck, to put Minnesota up 6-4.

Morneau hit his third home run of the season, a shot to the first row of the upper deck that was caught on the fly by a fan with a glove to make it 7-4 in the fifth.

Notes: A’s first baseman Dan Johnson, who grew up in the Twin Cities, wasn’t in the lineup. He’s 0-for-19 this season. Swisher, who also plays left field, started in his place. … The Twins thought about keeping ace Johan Santana on his regular schedule this week, but he told them he didn’t mind a fifth day between starts. So the rotation will stay the same, with Scott Baker pitching Friday against the Yankees and Santana going Saturday. … Chavez is 11-for-37 (.297) with three homers and seven RBIs against Radke. This was Chavez’s 15th multihomer game.

AP-ES-04-11-06 2254EDT

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