Big Hurt returns to the lineup and helps Oakland top Twins

Minnesota fell 11-2 during Thursday’s day game against the Athletics.

>OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) – Frank Thomas won in his return to Oakland. Rajai Davis got three hits in his Athletics debut.

Yet it was Donnie Murphy who delivered all the power.

With two new and familiar faces in the starting lineup, the A’s jumped on Minnesota starter Francisco Liriano for six runs in the first inning on the way to an 11-2 victory over the Twins in the rubber game Thursday.

Murphy hit solo shots in the fifth and sixth innings for his first and second homers of the season and first career multi-homer game. Thomas razzed him about it afterward.

“He was giving me a hard time – ‘Oh, it’s that easy, huh?'” Murphy said with a grin.

Mike Sweeney – whose playing time will probably diminish with the addition of Thomas – had a two-run double off the wall in left in the fourth, a day after connecting for his first home run in 40 games.

“Looking at the lineup, in the 3-4 holes you have Mike Sweeney and Frank Thomas – that’s pretty good,” Murphy said. “I had a feeling we were going to score some runs.”

Emil Brown hit a two-run single as the A’s batted around in the first and chased Liriano (0-3) after only two-thirds of an inning. Thomas drew a five-pitch walk and came around to score, and Davis singled in the No. 9 spot that inning as the A’s staked starter Greg Smith (2-0) to a comfortable lead.

The Big Hurt agreed to terms with the A’s after being released Sunday by the Toronto Blue Jays and went 0-for-3 with two walks, receiving a warm welcome back from the crowd. He returned to the cleanup spot as designated hitter, which will be his regular role again for Oakland, after he was a catalyst in the team’s 2006 playoff run and AL West championship.

“I didn’t feel out of place. It really felt like I just left,” Thomas said. “I’m happy to be back. I’m happy to shake the rust off today because they pitched me tough. I’m sure their game plan was not to give in because they knew I missed a whole week, so they threw some sliders and breaking balls and ran the ball in on me. I’m just happy we got a big win.”

Davis was claimed off waivers from the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday and appeared in his first game, getting a single in the first, a triple in the fifth and another base hit in the sixth.

Murphy homered to left to start the fifth, Davis tripled, then Kurt Suzuki hit an RBI double to chase Brian Bass.

“Our offense was really rolling today,” A’s manager Bob Geren said. “I think Frank in there drawing a couple of walks really helped.”

Liriano was done after Davis’ first single and just 35 pitches in a first inning that lasted 29 minutes. The left-hander, who is struggling mightily to command the strike zone after returning from Tommy John surgery in November 2006, allowed six runs and five hits, walked three and didn’t have a strikeout.

“He just had no command in the zone,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. “I don’t think he has a lot of confidence right now. You build confidence by going back out there and pitching, and he’ll do that. The kid couldn’t get out of an inning.”

It was the shortest outing by a Twins starter since May 30, 2002, when Brad Radke lasted only one-third of an inning against the Angels before leaving with an injury.

“I just have to get better from where I started,” Liriano said. “I was feeling good in the bullpen but when I got out there everything changed. I don’t know what it is. I have to put that aside and work on some things, try not to walk so many guys.”

Smith allowed two runs on seven hits in seven innings, struck out three and walked one in his first career appearance against the Twins, helping Oakland win for the fifth time in six games.

Davis’ hit in his first at-bat was only his second of the season after batting .056 (1-for-18) in 12 games for the Giants before they designated him for assignment April 20.

“I’m excited about what we’re doing over here,” Davis said. “It’s nice to get out there and get hits.”