A new series dawns, and with it the chance to erase some of the embarrassment from the Tiger series. Can the Twins take down the Oakland A’s?
The Twins will start two rookies, neither of whom have ever faced the A’s, the first two games, followed by Liriano, who returns to the rotation after a three week exile. Liriano has faced the A’s 11 times, and he has a 2-3 records and a 4.56 ERA. Among current A’s players, only Cliff Pennington and Kurt Suzuki have faced him more than 10 times. Pennington is hitting .276 and Suzuki .167.
The A’s starters are just as unknown to the Twins. Blackley and Parker have never pitched to the Twins in their young careers. Ross has just three appearances and a total of 0.2 innings pitched against Minnesota. The latest was last May 19, when he started the game and earned the loss despite facing just one hitter. Denard Span singled to start the game, then Ross departed with an oblique strain. Span eventually scored and the Twins never relinquished the lead, resulting in a hard-luck loss for Ross.
The Head to Head:
These two original AL franchises have faced each other in five different cities over the years. The Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins have played the Philadelphia/Kansas City/Oakland Athletics 1,990 times. Washington/Minnesota has the advantage 990-977 (the numbers don’t add up because in the game’s early years, games were often counted as draws if they did not finish before dark). In games played in Minnesota, the Twins have a resounding 190-149 advantage (.560 winning percentage).
The two have met in the postseason twice, and each has won one series. The Twins knocked off Oakland 3-2 in the 2002 ALDS, but the A’s swept the Twins in the 2006 version of that series.
Neither of the two teams has dominated the other in recent years. Last year they split the season series, with each side accumulating four wins.
The weather will be cool for this series, and possibly wet. Monday’s high will near 80, but there is about a 50/50 chance of thunderstorms. Tuesday and Wednesday will probably be drier, but high temps will plummet to around 60 both days.
The Twins have stumbled across one of the few teams that hits significantly worse than they do. Heading into Sunday, Oakland was dead last in the AL in batting average (.210), on-base percentage (.285), slugging (.335), and runs scored (158). The Twins are between 8th and 11th in all of those categories. Oakland has had one pleasant surprise on offense. Josh Reddick, a 25 year old outfielder obtained in a trade from Boston, has come out of nowhere to hit 13 homers so far. Reddick is hitting .271/.333/.548, while the rest of the lineup is hanging around the Mendoza line. In order to correct the lack of hitting, the A’s signed Manny Ramirez to come out of retirement, but he won’t be able to join them until Wednesday at the latest, thanks to a suspension he received by testing positive for banned substances.
Unlike the Twins, Oakland makes up for its hitting deficiencies with competent pitching. They are fifth in the American League with a 3.63 ERA. The staff leader has been starter Brandon McCarthy, whom the Twins will miss this series. Winning a division title is probably out of the question in the star-studded AL West, but the A’s pitching could have them in the hunt for a .500 finish. Unfortunately, a five game losing streak against the Angels and Yankees has put a cramp in Oakland’s style.
Minnesota also suffers from five consecutive defeats, so this series will be yet another contest to see if the Twins can stanch their bleeding against a slumping team. So far, almost every such team magically seems to rediscover its winning ways when it confronts the Twins, a prospect that has to have the A’s feeling optimistic. On the plus side for the Twins, they have their strongest starter, Scott Diamond, on the hill for game one. And Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are starting to hit well again.
The Bottom Line:
Look for Diamond to win Game 1, but the A’s will win the series. Liriano may single-handedly cure all of Oakland’s hitting problems on Wednesday.