9:07 PM EST – Line: Twins -130, Over/Under: 9.5
Teams traveling in different directions en route to the All-Star Break battle in the Bay Area, as the rising Oakland Athletics host the stumbling Minnesota Twins in the Second-Leg of a Three Game Series from the Oakland Coliseum. It’s safe to say that now that we’re heading into the All-Star Break, we’re finally seeing the real Twins (53-29, 1st in AL Central), who after slugging their way to the best record in the Majors have fallen back to the pack to a degree. With both the Houston Astros and New York Yankees gradually returning to full strength, Minnesota has otherwise traveled in the opposite direction of late, dropping Eight of their last Fourteen Outings, and as a result have seen their sizable lead in the American League disappear altogether. Rocco Baldelli’s charges have ascended to this stage largely on their historic tear from the Plate, where in bashing a league-best 156 Home Runs, are currently on pace to shatter the Single-Season Record set by the Yankees last season (267) by the widest of margins. Eight different players have belted at least Eleven Home Runs and driven in at least Thirty Runs, lead by a trio of youngsters including the likes of Eddie Rosario (75 G, .282 BA, 87 H, 51 R, 14 2B, 20 HR, 60 RBI, 14 BB, 45 K), Max Kepler (75 G, .269 BA, 79 H, 53 R, 19 2B, 21 HR, 53 RBI, 33 BB, 53 K), and C.J. Cron (74 G, .271 BA, 77 H, 34 R, 16 2B, 17 HR, 52 RBI, 21 BB, 61 K), with veteran Designated Hitter Nelson Cruz (56 G, .284 BA, 60 H, 34 R, 14 2B, 15 HR, 44 RBI, 27 BB, 71 K) providing further power in what can only be looked at as a shrewd Free Agent Acquisition for the club. As a whole, Minnesota ranks tops in the Majors in Runs (471), Home Runs (156), Runs Batted In (453), Batting Average (.271), Slugging Percentage (.498), and OPS (.836). Indeed, if you’re looking for a posterboy for this season’s offensive exploits, then the Twins have you covered. Taking the mound tonight for the Twins will be Kyle Gibson (8-4, 4.21 ERA, 15 GS, 87.2 IP, 85 H, 41 ER, 12 HR, 23 BB, 88 K, 1.232 WHIP), who received some extra rest after helping out in his team’s Eighteen-Inning Marathon 2-5 Loss against the Tampa Bay Rays last week. Alternating Wins and Losses over his past Four Starts, the 31-Year Old Righthander has been yet another arm in Minnesota’s Rotation to benefit greatly from the onslaught of Run Support granted by his teammates in the Field. Spending the entirety of his career with the club, the veteran appeared to be a bit of a late-bloomer in 2018, authoring a career-best 3.62 ERA over 196.2 Innings, also a career mark. While his ERA this season has ballooned to 4.21, Gibson has exhibited far better control over his pitches, evidenced by the dramatic improvement in Strikeouts (88) and Walks (23), parlaying to a career-high 3.83 Strikeout/Walk Ratio. In his Start, he was solid in a 9-4 Victory over the Rays on June 25th, permitting Four Earned Runs on Seven Hits over the duration of 7.0 Innings, striking out Seven Batters and issuing just one Walk. In Four Career Starts versus the Athletics, Gibson has certainly experienced his ups and down, going 2-2 with 4.03 ERA and 1.657 WHIP, totaling more Walks (13) than Strikeouts (10).
Meanwhile, don’t look now, but there is a rising power in the American League and it’s the Athletics (46-39, 3rd in AL West), who are steadily climbing the Standings, rung by rung. After an absolutely dismal start to the campaign, Oakland managed to reroute themselves by winning Ten Games in a row at one point, with that momentum having carried them over the past month, having gone 17-9 over the past Twenty-Six Games. Due to some unfortunate news (which we’ll get into shortly), Bob Melvin’s charges are going to have ride the offensive surge they’ve been on of late to maintain their upward trajectory; the A’s scored Twenty-Three Runs in their Three-Game Sweep over AL West Rival, the Los Angeles Angels, outscoring them 23-8 over that span, including a 12-3 thumping on Sunday. Third-Year Third Baseman, Matt Chapman (83 G, .264 BA, 83 H, 55 R, 20 2B, 20 HR, 46 RBI, 40 BB, 70 K) has been fantastic, leading the team in a slew of categories, including Runs (55), Doubles (20), Triples (2), Home Runs (20), RBI (46), On-Base Percentage (.353), and Slugging Percentage (.532). In Sunday’s romp over the Angels, he compiled Six Runs Batted In, very nearly hitting for the Cycle, logging a Double, Triple, and Homer in Five At-Bats. Taking the mound tonight for the Athletics will be Tanner Anderson (0-3, 7.13 ERA, 4 GS, 17.2 IP, 21 H, 14 ER, 4 HR, 5 BB, 15 K, 1.472 WHIP), whom Melvin is hoping will develop into a sorely-needed contributor in what has become a very shallow Rotation. With Frankie Montas (9-2, 2.70 ERA, 15 GS, 90.0 IP, 80 H, 27 ER, 7 HR, 21 BB, 97 K, 1.122 WHIP), who had been by far and away their most effective Starter, serving an 80-Game Suspension due to testing positive for Performance-Enhancing Drugs last week, Oakland has been in a frantic search for quality arms to fill that void, with Anderson being the current topic of discussion within the Organization. The 26-Year Old was used very sparingly throughout the first few months of the term, but since June has seen his role expand, with Melvin affording him Four Starts, though they’ve largely proven to be a mixed bag. In none of his Start was he able to escape the Sixth Inning, and in each case his side met defeat. When we last saw the former Pirate, he endured a nightmare at the hands of Los Angeles Angels, with Melvin pulling his young Pitcher after just 2.2 Innings, in which he relinquished Seven Earned Runs on Eight Hits (including a pair of Home Runs). It remains to be seen as to whether or not Anderson will find a place in the Rotation in the longer term, though he may ultimately be better served as a member of the Bullpen, with the club looking elsewhere, particularly towards the Trade Market for reinforcements.