In 1976, Gene Mauch took over as Twins manager, Rod Carew hit better than .330 and the club would go on to have one of its best seasons since 1970. They were especially good down the stretch — 21-8 in September and October — but in mid-May they were still trying to overcome a slow start to the season.
On May 17, the Twins got their first look at the go-go Oakland A’s. The A’s, under manager Chuck Tanner, who would manage only one season in Oakland before he joined the Pittsburgh Pirates and won a World Series, had them off and running. The A’s would go on to steal 341 bases that season.
The A’s arrived for a two-game series and kept on stealing bases. It would be a long night for Twins catcher, Phil Roof, who not only watched as the A’s stole nine bases but who also went 0-for-5 at the plate.
Don Baylor stole four bases in that night game at the Met, followed by Phil Garner with two, Bill North had two and Larry Lintz had one more to give them nine before a crowd of 8,000 fans.
All that running didn’t matter because the A’s were 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position and left 16 men on base. Baylor doubled, Joe Rudi tripled and Claudell Washington hit a home run.
The Twins countered with a double from Butch Wynegar, a triple from Carew and Dan Ford went deep, his sixth of the season. By the end of the ninth inning, both teams were tied 4-4.
In the bottom of the 11th, pinch hitter, Steve Brye, singled in the winning run and the Twins won 5-4 in walk-off fashion.
Twins pitcher Bill Campbell got the win, despite an unusual pitching line. He walked three batters in three innings and improved to 5-1 with a 2.73 ERA.
The next night the two teams, and 6,600 fans, would witness the A’s steal five more bases. This time Washington had two stolen bases. Matt Alexander, Lintz and Baylor each had a stolen base.
Again, a lack of clutch hitting doomed the A’s and both teams headed to extra-innings. In the 11th, Ford singled in Brye and the Twins made it back-to-back, walk-off wins.
Pitcher Dave Goltz, who would win 20 games for the Twins in 1977, pitched 11 innings and improved to 2-2. He allowed three runs on seven hits, with three walks and seven strikeouts.
The A’s left Minnesota and kept on stealing bases in Chicago. It didn’t matter there, either.
“In one five-game stretch, the A’s stole 20 bases against the White Sox and Twins and didn’t win any of them,” according to “Dynastic, Bombastic, Fantastic: Reggie, Rollie, Catfish, and Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s,” a book by Jason Turbow.