8:10 PM EST – Line: Twins -140, Over/Under: 10.5
A potential Playoff Preview is on tap as the Minnesota Twins host the Oakland Athletics in the first chapter of a Four-Game Series from Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After a disappointing start to the season in which they were a meager 19-25, the Athletics (53-41, 2nd in AL West) made a complete about-face, stringing together ten straight Wins en route to going 31-16 heading into the All-Star Break. As a result, Oakland has taken control of the final Wild Card in the American League, and have appeared to continue that momentum having won all three of their contests following the Midsummer Classic. These teams will be renewing acquaintances after Bob Melvin’s charges came away with a 2-1 Series Victory Two Weeks ago; the A’s outscored the Twins 18-12 over the course of the Series, culminating in a 7-2 Win on July 4th. Marcus Semien (.272 BA, 95 G, 106 H, 63 R, 22 2B, 14 HR, 46 BB, 58 K) enjoyed quite the showing over those three outings, with the Shortstop totaling Four Hits, a Double, and Two Home Runs with Five Runs Batted In. Despite the All-Star Snub, the 28-Year Old is enjoying a career campaign, on track to surpass his career-bests in Batting Average, Hits, Runs, Doubles, and Runs Batted In. Taking the mound tonight for the Athletics will be Mike Fiers (9-3, 3.61 ERA, 20 GS, 114.2 IP, 96 H, 46 ER, 15 HR, 31 BB, 74 K, 1.108 WHIP), who in his first full season with the club has asserted himself as the No. One in their Rotation. Far from an Ace, the journeyman has become a late bloomer of sorts, finding himself on his third team in as many years, coming to the Bay Area from the Detroit Tigers at last season’s Trade Deadline. A World Series Champion with the Houston Astros, the 34-Year Old looks to have finally found a home with Oakland, leading their Rotation in Wins (9), Starts (20), Innings Pitched (114.2), and WHIP (1.108). Furthermore, he’s on pace to set career-highs in a slew of categories including Wins, Starts, and Innings Pitched. When we last saw him, Fiers extended his unbeaten streak to Twelve Games, throwing 7.2 Scoreless Innings in a 5-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox, yielding Eight Hits, with Four Strikeouts in comparison to One Walk. Indeed, Melvin & Co. have all the confidence in the world with the Righthander heading to the bump, for they’ve outright won Nine of the last Thirteen Games in which he’s started. However, the most recent of those defeats happened to come against tonight’s opponent, the Twins, who bested the A’s late in a 4-3 affair back on July 3rd. For his troubles, Fiers was once again solid, allowing just One Earned Run on Five Hits, with Four Strikeouts and Zero Walks before departing after Six Innings of work, further augmenting what has been a stellar career ledger against Minnesota. He’s faced them a dozen times, making Eleven Starts, earning a 6-1 Record with a 2.66 ERA and 1.138 WHIP.
Meanwhile, reading like the opposite to their opponent tonight, the Twins (58-34, 1st in AL Central) have come back down to Earth after their torrid start to the season. It’s safe to say that now that we’ve passed the All-Star Break, we’re finally seeing the real Twins, who after slugging their way to the best record in the Majors (47-22 on June 15th), have largely treaded water ever since, going 11-12. Rocco Baldelli’s charges have ascended to this stage largely on their historic tear from the Plate, where in bashing a league-best 171 Home Runs, are currently on pace to shatter the Single-Season Record set by the Yankees last season (267) by the widest of margins. Nine different players have belted at least Ten 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 (84 G, .263 BA, 89 H, 58 R, 21 2B, 31 HR, 59 RBI, 35 BB, 63 K), and C.J. Cron (78 G, .266 BA, 80 H, 36 R, 18 2B, 17 HR, 54 RBI, 23 BB, 64 K), with veteran Designated Hitter Nelson Cruz (65 G, .275 BA, 67 H, 38 R, 16 2B, 17 HR, 47 RBI, 32 BB, 80 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 (523), Home Runs (171), Batting Average (.271), Slugging Percentage (.495), and OPS (.830). 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, 4.03 ERA, 18 GS, 98.1 IP, 95 H, 44 ER, 14 HR, 29 BB, 99 K, 1.261 WHIP), who 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 4.03, Gibson has exhibited far better control over his pitches, evidenced by the dramatic improvement in Strikeouts (99) and Walks (29), parlaying to a career-high 3.41 Strikeout/Walk Ratio. In his last Start, he was solid in a 5-3 victory over the Indians on July 12th, permitting One Earned Run on Four Hits over the duration of just 3.2 Innings, striking out Five Batters and issuing just One Walk. In Five Career Starts versus the Athletics, Gibson has certainly experienced his ups and down, going 2-2 with 3.81 ERA and 1.624WHIP, totaling more Walks (17) than Strikeouts (15). He last faced Oakland back on July 3rd, earning yet another No-Decision, his hi second in a running streak of four, allowing Two Earned Runs on Five Hits over Six Innings, with Five Strikeouts and Four Walks in what eventually ended in a 4-3 victory for the Twins.