Minnesota Twins: Looking for Fireworks vs. A’s


Fresh off their possibly most impressive series victory of the season, the Minnesota Twins will open an Independence Day tilt with the Oakland A’s.

This series marks a holiday rematch against the A’s who hosted the Minnesota Twins for a three-game set over Memorial Day.

The Twins are coming off a series victory over the American League-leading Texas Rangers. It was a successful offensive series for the Twins who scored 24 runs to the Rangers’ 12.

So common logic says they should have no issues taking down the struggling A’s, right?

More from Puckett's Pond

Well the last time these two played, the Twins had a rough time getting some runs across the plate allowing the A’s to sweep all three games.

There have been a few changes for the Minnesota Twins since that series including a few roster moves as well as the rejuvenated performances of a couple key contributors.

Gone are Oswaldo Arcia and Kevin Jepsen while the likes of Brian Dozier and Kurt Suzuki have finally started to find more consistency in their offense.

Dozier and Suzuki’s performances really proved to be keys to the team’s June, a month that saw the team improve its batting average (.257 vs. .239 in May), RBI’s (121 vs. 104), home runs (36 vs 31) and runs scored (126 vs. 111).

To say the duo’s improvement as well as the offense’s improvement over May was a coincidence would be just false.

So looking at the matchup, it will be interesting to see how things go. Oakland’s offense also saw a strong June, however their pitching continued to let them down.

As a starting staff, the A’s have a combined earned run average of 5.14 while their bullpen has put up a 4.16 ERA.

These numbers are pretty similar to the Twins who have a 5.51 starter ERA and 4.46 bullpen ERA. Though the bullpen numbers may begin to dwindle due to the recent demotion of struggling righty Jepsen.

Kepler has arrived and is starting to look like the top prospect he had been consistently ranked as.

So what can we expect from this series? Statistically, it looks to be a pretty even series down the middle and one the Minnesota Twins can hopefully win to possibly begin some momentum heading into the All-Star break.

Unfortunately, a series such as this one is always hard to predict as two struggling teams going at it can only mean you should expect the unexpected.

Minnesota Twins to Watch for:

Max Kepler

As stated in the takeaways from Saturday’s game, Kepler has arrived and is starting to look like the top prospect he had been consistently ranked as.

With Trevor Plouffe now on the Disabled List, Miguel Sano will slide over to third and allow Kepler to stay in right field.

Kepler had an outstanding series with the Rangers, going 4-for-11 with two runs scored, a pair of homers hit on Saturday and eight RBI’s (seven of which came on Saturday).

There’s perhaps no one hotter on the roster than Kepler who is riding a seven-game hitting streak and has hit safely in all but three games since June 10.

Brandon Kintzler

Now that Glen Perkins is officially done for the season and the Minnesota Twins have sent Jepsen packing, Kintzler will step into the role as closer unopposed.

So far he’s been very effective in the closer role, going 4-for-4 in save opportunities with a 2.28 ERA. It will be a fun and interesting storyline to watch as Kintzler is coming off a rough 2015 (6.43 over seven games).

If he can continue to pitch well for the Twins as their closer, it will be nice insurance in case Perkins never fully recovers from two straight seasons of injury-plagued ball.

Pitching matchups:

Oakland A’s                                                                            Minnesota Twins

Kendall Graveman (3-6, 4.84)                                           Ricky Nolasco (3-6, 5.31)

What to Watch: Aside from a slightly higher ERA by Nolasco, these two pitchers have very similar numbers on the season. Each has three wins on the season while Nolasco takes a slight edge in strikeouts (79 vs. 55) and WHIP (1.38 vs. 1.54).

Oakland A’s                                                                             Minnesota Twins

Sean Manaea (3-4, 5.40)                                                     Tommy Milone (0-2, 6.23)

What to Watch: It’s the second straight game of the series in which each starter has an ERA over five, adding to the ugliness of each team’s season. However, the matchup may work in the Twins’ favor as perhaps Milone will go into the start with a chip on his shoulder and topple his former team.

Oakland A’s                                                                              Minnesota Twins

Sonny Gray (3-7, 5.42)                                                          Ervin Santana (2-7, 4.50)

What to Watch: Gray has definitely struggled this season with an inconsistent performance. While still viewed a viable pitching option of the future, this has easily been the worst statistical season of his young career. Prior to 2016, the highest ERA he had ever put up was 3.08 in 2014.

Next: Twins Top Rangers

Santana on the other hand now has three straight starts of three runs allowed or less after allowing at least five runs in four of his previous five starts. He pitched a strong game on Memorial Day in Oakland, hopefully he can do it again.