Minnesota Twins series preview: Pressure mounts as Twins host surging A’s

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OAKLAND, CA - JULY 16: Matt Chapman #26 of the Oakland Athletics hits an rbi double scoring Marcus Semien #10 against the Seattle Mariners in the bottom of the seventh inning at Ring Central Coliseum on July 16, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - JULY 16: Matt Chapman #26 of the Oakland Athletics hits an rbi double scoring Marcus Semien #10 against the Seattle Mariners in the bottom of the seventh inning at Ring Central Coliseum on July 16, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
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The Minnesota Twins won’t have time to sulk as they’ll host a surging Oakland Athletics club over the weekend.

After taking care of business in Cleveland last weekend, the Minnesota Twins turned in one of their worst series of the year after getting swept by the New York Mets. While the series was thankfully just a two-game set, the Twins had some uncharacteristic moments such as poor defense in the field and a lineup that couldn’t seem to find the big hit.

While the Twins have played .500 baseball as of late, they’re starting to feel the pressure from a charging Cleveland Indians squad. While the Twins have gone 18-18 in their past 36 games, the Indians have rattled off a 25-10 stretch that has cut what was an 11.5 game lead down to just four heading into this weekend (via Baseball Prospectus’ Aaron Gleeman).

To make matters worse, the Twins will be playing some tougher competition over the next couple series including a four-game set with the Oakland Athletics this weekend.

Much like their last series, this series will represent two teams traveling in opposite directions. While the Twins haven’t completely tailed off (and are just enduring their first three-game losing streak of the year), Oakland has been red hot since starting the season with a 36-36 record. Since June 16, the Athletics have gone on an 18-5 run including taking two of three from the Twins in early July.

At that time, the Twins were trying to limp into the All-Star break with several injuries and their one victory was a come-from-behind, 12-inning nail biter. The biggest reason for the A’s success has been their lone All-Star representative Matt Chapman, but also a pitching staff that has come together after breakout ace Frankie Montas earned an 80-game suspension for PEDs.

The series will kick off on Thursday night when the Twins send Kyle Gibson to the mound to face Mike Fiers. Gibson struggled mightily in his first start after the All-Star break, going just 3 2/3 innings in the Twins win over the Indians on July 12. Meanwhile, Fiers has rebounded from a slow start to go 7-1 with a 2.35 ERA in his past 14 starts including six innings of one-run ball against the Twins on July 3.

The Twins will go to the top of their rotation through the remainder of the series as Jake Odorizzi will look to get even with the A’s after exiting a July 2 start with a blister against Oakland’s Chris Bassitt on Friday night. Jose Berrios will also look to rebound from an uncharacteristic start last Sunday in Cleveland when he goes up against Brett Anderson on Saturday while Michael Pineda will get the start in the series finale against Daniel Mengden on Sunday afternoon.

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With a showdown with the New York Yankees looming to open next week, the Twins will have to not only shake off their Mets meltdown but stay focused on a good Oakland team. If Minnesota can bounce back, it will do a lot to ease the fears of the Twins fan base at the moment.

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