Photo credit: @Athletics
By Jerry Feitelberg
OAKLAND — The Oakland A’s are enjoying an off-day on Monday after finishing a six-game road trip with a 5-1 record. The A’s are now just 1/2 game behind the Texas Rangers for second place in the AL West and for the second slot in the Wild Card race.
The A’s will play the next three games at home with the AL Central Division leading Minnesota Twins. The Twins, under first-year manager Rocco Baldelli, have a record of 53-30 and own an eight-game lead over the second place Cleveland Indians.
The Twins have a power-packed lineup. Six of the nine hitters in the lineup have hit more than 10 home runs so far this season. The other three need just one or two more dingers to reach that level. The Twins star left fielder, Eddie Rosario, will not play in the series. Rosario is hitting .280 and has 20 homers and 60 RBIs so far. He is on the 10-day IL with a sprained left ankle. Marwyn Gonzalez, the former Astro, will take his place. The A’s will see Byron Buxton in center and Max Kepler in right. The German-born Kepler leads the team with 21 dingers. All the infielders can hit the ball out of the park. Former LA Angels first baseman, C.J. Cron, is hitting .271, and has hit 17 big flies, and knocked in 52. Second baseman Jonathan Schoop is playing well with a .251 average and has hit 13 out of the park. Shortstop Jorge Polanco, who will be going to the All-Star Game in Cleveland, leads the team in hitting with a .320 average and he has 11 homers and 39 RBIs on his resume. Miguel Sano is a third. He is not hitting for average, but he is a power threat every time he goes to the plate. Jason Castro will handle the catching. Nelson Cruz will be the DH. Cruz, who loves to hit against Oakland, is having an excellent season with 16 homers and 46 runs batted in.
On Tuesday, the Twins will send their All-Star starter, Jake Odorizzi, to the hill. Odorizzi (10-3, 2.73 ERA) pitched exceptionally well in May. In June, however, Odorizzi has allowed 11 earned runs in 15 1/3 innings of work over his last three starts. The A’s Daniel Mengden will be making his second start since being recalled from Las Vegas last month. Mengden was sensational in his start against the St. Louis Cardinals last week in St. Louis. He pitched six innings of shutout baseball. Mengden will be making his first career start against Minnesota.
Wednesday’s game will feature the Twins’ Kyle Gibson (8-4, 4.21 ERA) going against the A’s Tanner Anderson (0-3, 7.13 ERA). Anderson was roughed up in his last start last Thursday against the LA Angels. He, too, will be making his first career start against the Twins.
On Thursday, the Fourth of July, the A’s will and the ball to Mike Fiers (8-3, 4.01 ERA). Fiers has an ERA of 2.61 in his last 12 starts, which is the sixth lowest in the AL over that span. He has a record of 6-1 and an ERA of 2.77 in 11 (10 starts) games against the Twins. Jose Berrios (8-4, 2.89 ERA) pitches for Minnesota. Berrios pitched last Friday and was tagged for six runs (three earned) against the White Sox in six innings of work. That effort allowed the Twins’ bullpen to get some rest after an 18-inning game the night before.
The Twins have two pitchers that have 10 save each for the team. The Twins will use either righty Blake Parker or lefty Taylor Rogers as the closer. Pitchers that will see action in the series include Trevor May, Matt Magill, Ryne Harper, Mike Morin, Tyler Duffey, and lefty Lewis Thorpe.
The A’s will be without the services of Stephen Piscotty. Piscotty injured his right knee sliding into second base Saturday night. Piscotty had an MRI done on Monday to see the extent of the damage if any. He is on the 10-day IL.
Following the three-game set with the Twins, the A’s travel to Seattle for three with the Mariners. The A’s will resume play at home against the Chicago White Sox after a four-day break for the MLB All-Star game that will be played in Cleveland. A’s third baseman Matt Chapman will be making his first appearance as an All-Star.