The hottest team in baseball takes on a division leader when the Oakland Athletics face the host Minnesota Twins Thursday in the opener of a four-game weekend series. Oakland comes into the contest with a six-game winning streak and has pulled to within 4.5 games of Houston in the American League West. The Athletics are also tied with the Cleveland Indians for the second Wild Card spot in the American League, just a half-game behind the Tampa Bay Rays.
Meanwhile, Minnesota has come down from its red-hot first half of the season and is suddenly looking at a dwindling lead in the American League Central. The Twins have dropped three straight, including two in a row at home against a non-contending New York Mets squad, and lead the Indians by just four games.
The moneyline for this contest has the Oakland Athletics +120 and the Minnesota Twins -130. The over/under has been set at 10.5.
Hot On The Mound
As hot as Oakland has been as a team, Mike Fiers has been just as hot with his pitching, winning seven straight decisions and not taking a loss since May 1. On the season, Fiers is 9-3 with a 3.61 ERA, having struck out 74 and walked 31, while also throwing the only solo no-hitter of the campaign. In his last start, Fiers was masterful, pitching 7 2/3 innings of shutout ball against the White Sox, allowing eight hits and striking out four while walking just one.
The Athletics’ offense has been clicking during their winning streak, with Oakland averaging 7.8 runs during that span. The team welcomed new addition Homer Bailey to the team with six home runs and 10 runs overall to back him in his debut on Wednesday. Matt Chapman leads the Athletics in most offensive categories, though he’s considered day-to-day after leaving Wednesday’s game with a sore ankle.
Needing Some Wins
Minnesota looked like it was starting to play better after taking two of three from Cleveland to start the second half of the season, but a combined 17-6 score in two losses against the Mets showed otherwise. Kyle Gibson will take the mound for Minnesota in the opener, looking to improve his 8-4 record and 4.03 ERA. Gibson is coming off a 3 2/3-inning performance against Cleveland in which he allowed three runs (just one earned) on four hits, striking out five and walking one.
The Twins are hoping Eddie Rosario can find his game quickly after he returned from the injured list prior to the Mets series. Rosario, who leads Minnesota with 61 RBI this season, went 2-for-8 with an RBI and a run in the two games against New York. The home run has been the name of the game for Minnesota this season, with 10 Twins sitting with double-digit home runs coming into the series. Max Kepler leads the team with 23, with Rosario (20) and Nelson Cruz (18) just behind him.
Twins Get Win
Minnesota has had its troubles with errors lately — committing six over its last five games and allowing seven unearned runs in Wednesday’s game — which has manager Rocco Baldelli preaching for his team to concentrate more. This series is followed by a three-game set with the New York Yankees, so if the Twins are going to hold onto their lead in the AL Central, they’re going to have to play much better over the next week. They get off to a good start to the stretch in this one. I’m taking Minnesota -130 to take the opener.