• Hero: Cuddyer, who finished a homer shy of the cycle, has had four hits in a game three other times in his career, the last coming May 26 against Toronto.
• Goat: Gaudin walked Luis Castillo to start the first, and also walked Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau before giving Torii Hunter a free pass with the bases loaded to hand the Twins a 2-0 lead.
• Figure this: The A's entered Thursday nine games behind the Angels in the AL West and eight behind the Indians in the wild card, their biggest deficit at the All-Star break since 1998.
• Quotable: "That's not the way I wanted to start the second half. They came out and had a good plan. They were patient at the plate and they worked the count on me, made me really buckle down." -- Gaudin
-- ESPN.com news services
Twins 6, Athletics 2
Gaudin (8-4) entered the night fourth in the AL with a 2.88 earned-run average, but he walked five hitters -- including four in the first inning. He allowed five runs and six hits in four-plus innings, and has walked 29 batters in his last eight outings.
"That's not the way I wanted to start the second half," Gaudin said. "They came out and had a good plan. They were patient at the plate and they worked the count on me, made me really buckle down."
Scott Baker (4-3) gave up two runs and six hits in six innings for the Twins, who handed the A's their fifth loss in the last six games. He struck out three and walked only one, and had a 4-0 lead after the first two innings.
Baker said the early lead allowed him "to come right at some guys instead of trying to make a great pitch every pitch. There's a little more room for error."
Shannon Stewart had two hits and an RBI for Oakland, extending his hitting streak to 15 games -- the longest active streak in the American League. But the Athletics didn't manage much more against Baker, who gave up seven runs in five innings to the White Sox in his last start.
"It's kind of a team-wide funk right now, besides Stew," A's second baseman Mark Ellis said. "Hopefully we'll break out of it. It just takes one game."
It was the first game of the second half for two teams that have earned reputations as slow starters and blazing finishers.
The Twins rallied from 12 1/2 games back in the AL Central last year to win their fourth division title in five seasons, and it seems like every year the A's get hot in July and ride it right into the postseason.
This time, both teams need to get going in a hurry.
The A's entered Thursday nine games behind the Angels in the AL West and eight behind the Indians in the wild card, their biggest deficit at the All-Star break since 1998. And making up ground won't be easy after the A's placed starter Rich Harden on the disabled list for the second time this season with a right shoulder strain.
The Twins trailed the Tigers by eight games in the AL Central when the day began, and were seven down to the Indians in the wild card standings.
"Every series is serious," Torii Hunter said.
Minnesota used patience at the plate on Thursday to move a step in the right direction.
Cuddyer, who finished a homer shy of the cycle, also had an RBI single in the inning, and the Twins got two more in the second on RBIs from Castillo and Jason Bartlett.
"He's been tremendous and he'll bounce back and be fine next time out, I'm sure," A's manager Bob Geren said of Gaudin.
The cushion put Baker at ease right away, and the 25-year-old right-hander breezed through the first four innings, allowing just two hits.
Stewart had an RBI double and Mark Kotsay followed with a run-scoring single to cut Minnesota's lead to 4-2 in the fifth, but Baker set the A's down in order in the sixth before yielding to Matt Guerrier.
Athletics 1B Dan Johnson, a native of the Minneapolis suburb of Coon Rapids, went 0-for-4. ... DH Jack Cust went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. ... Cuddyer has had four hits in a game three other times in his career, the last coming May 26 against Toronto. ... Hunter had two RBIs.