Austin homers twice, but Twins overpowered by Oakland, 6-2
MINNEAPOLIS — Asked about new first baseman Tyler Austin before Sunday afternoon's game against the Oakland A's, Paul Molitor answered, "Intriguing — high-end power."
The Twins manager is even more intrigued now.
Austin hit two home runs, including a tape-measure shot to dead center, in a 6-2 loss Aug. 26 to the hard-charging A's, who are trying to overtake defending World Series champion Houston in the American League West.
Acquired as part of the non-waiver deadline deal that sent Lance Lynn to the Yankees, Austin homered in Saturday's loss, as well, and is now batting .333 with six home runs and 9 RBIs in 12 games with his new team.
"It's fun to watch," Molitor said. "He takes a swing."
Matt Chapman hit two of Oakland's four home runs, and Jed Lowrie homered and hit a two-run double as the A's took three of four from the Twins, who hadn't lost a series at home since July 30-Aug. 1 against Cleveland. Austin's performance since joining the team has served to mitigate a disappointed season as fans look ahead to 2019.
It's unclear where Austin, 26, might play were he to make the 25-man roster next season and first baseman Joe Mauer returns, but he could maybe give the Twins the consistent power-hitting designated hitter they haven't really had since Jim Thome was traded in 2011.
"Just swinging at good pitches, man, I think that's the big thing — not missing them, not fouling them off," Austin said. "When you do that, sometimes good things happen."
Austin's home run into the observation deck above the batter's eye in the fourth inning was estimated to have traveled 451 feet. In the sixth, he powered an opposite-field homer into the flora on top of the wall in right. Unfortunately, he had no teammates on base, but the Twins will take all positive developments right now.
"He's going to miss some, but the fact is he can hit it line to line with plenty of power," Molitor said. "The one to center field looked like a center-cut fastball, but the other one was like last night, just battling deep in the count and just got extended on a ball up and high and he got enough carry to hit it out.
"It's been a nice start for him. We talked about the intrigue there, and hopefully he keeps figuring it out with these opportunities as he continues to settle in."
Austin declined to discuss what appears to be an audition.
"Yeah, man, I don't necessarily know how to answer that," he said. "I'm just looking to compete and have good at-bats every single day, and hopefully good things will happen."
Jose Berrios (11-9) battled through a stomach ailment to pitch five innings, surrendering three earned runs on eight hits and three walks, but right-hander Matt Magill came on and have up three solo home runs, including back-to-back shots by Chapman and Lowrie in the seventh inning.
It was the eighth time this season that Oakland has hit consecutive home runs.
Rookie Chris Bassitt, recalled to take the start from injured Sean Manaea, tamed the Twins in just his sixth major league start but didn't get out of the fourth, relieved by right-hander Shawn Kelly with two out and two on and Miguel Sano at the plate. Sano lined out to left, where Nick Martini tracked down his sinking line drive.
Bassitt's lone mistake was the 2-0 fastball to Austin that cleared the batter's eye. The Twins are letting him swing away without tweaking anything, and why not?
"I think the big thing is ... trying to get good pitches and not miss them, and stay in the strike zone," Austin said. "When I can stay in the strike zone and not expand, I'm pretty good for the most part. So, I have to continue working on that and getting better every day and working my approach."