MINNEAPOLIS -- The A's are partying like it's 2001.
At the very least, they're hitting like it is.
Oakland connected for four home runs -- including three in one inning -- for the second time in as many days in Sunday's 9-4 victory over the Twins, marking the first back-to-back four-homer display since September of -- you guessed it -- 2001.
Oakland went 102-60 that year, making the playoffs as the Wild Card winner after finishing second in the American League West. The 2012 A's aren't on pace to acquire as many wins, but for the first time since June 3, 2010, they're now three games over the .500 mark -- and very much a part of the Wild Card race, thanks to an added slot this year.
"I think we all know that this is the level we can play at," said starter Jarrod Parker, who worked six innings in the win. "We're coming together, and the way we swing it, we can do it a lot, and it's not a surprise to us around here. It's nice to see it come around, and I think it's a good time for it."
On Sunday, it was a two-run homer from Jonny Gomes, along with consecutive shots from Yoenis Cespedes and Chris Carter, and a long ball from Seth Smith, that secured the three-game series sweep for the A's at the same place -- more of a pitcher's park, no less -- they dropped three straight in May as part of a nine-game losing streak.
In doing so, Oakland upped its season home run total to 92, which is nearly twice as many as it tallied through 89 games last year (47), when it ended up with 114.
Moreover, a total of nine were counted in Minnesota, one less than the number of runs scored by the Twins, compared to 24 by the A's, who are a Major League-best 9-1 in the month of July as they head home for a challenging homestand against the Rangers and Yankees. Confidence, it appears, isn't lacking in the least bit.
"The bottom line is winning is fun," Gomes said. "You can have as much confidence as you want, but when you're not winning it's not fun. It's going to start inside the clubhouse, with building a bond with the 25 guys in here. We do have a different situation, with so many platoons going on, but at the same time the guys that aren't in there are truly rooting the other guy on. We're doing a real good job of coming together as a team and pulling together."
Less than 24 hours after tagging Cole De Vries for seven runs in five innings, the A's jumped on lefty Brian Duensing for six in just two frames, the first of which resulted in 41 pitches and two runs -- the first coming courtesy of the first of a career-high four hits by Cespedes.
Duensing didn't fare much better in the second, allowing Jemile Weeks to reach base for the second time in as many innings, before surrendering Gomes' home run to left field. Only a Josh Reddick groundout separated Cespedes' impressive long ball to dead center, and Carter joined the hit parade with one of his own -- marking his fifth homer in just nine games since being called up, after hitting .136 over his previous four big league stints.
"Shorter swing. Very strong young man," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Quicker to the fastball and not chasing as many pitches this time. It's a learning experience. The more at-bats you get, he'll probably get better and better because he's so strong. He tested our distance out on our field, let's put it that way."
Before Sunday, the A's had not hit three home runs in an inning since June 17, 2008, at Arizona. Four frames later came Smith's long ball, which highlighted a three-run inning that only further lent support to Parker.
The right-hander went six innings for the A's, surrendering four runs on nine hits with four strikeouts for his sixth victory, all the while enduring humid 90-degree weather.
"It's great to pitch with a lead," Parker said. "We've swung the bats all series, and it makes it a lot easier. I got away with some mistakes -- they put together some hits -- but when you have the run support we did early, you give up runs for outs, and I was trying to do that. I didn't put guys away when I had a chance, but it didn't really matter."
"I think, at times," A's manager Bob Melvin said, "when you hit homers, they actually play better than just the runs that are put up on the board. On the other side, it can get you down a bit when guys are hitting the ball out of the ballpark. It just has a different affect than say, maybe, a single with a guy on second base. So it's nice to see our guys hitting the ball over the ballpark, and to get it multiple times in the game creates a lot of momentum for us."