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Baseball is back: Oakland A's vs. Minnesota Twins series preview

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The Athletics will try to start the second half on a high note as the Minnesota Twins come to the Coliseum.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

This weekend, the Athletics (41-50) play host to the Minnesota Twins (49-40) for a three-game set to conclude their seven-game season series. The A's lost three of four to the Twins in May as Oakland played through the middle of the team's 6-22 spiral between April 23 and May 22. Two were high-scoring one-run losses, one was a low-scoring one-run win, and the remainder was a 0-13 laugher that saw Chad Smith and R.J. Alvarez concede seven runs and get only four outs. The Twins have been 33-27 since facing the A's.

The Twins enter this series in second place in the AL Central. They trail the Kansas City Royals by five games after the Royals won the afternoon game of their doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox this afternoon. Minnesota currently sits in the top Wild Card spot, ahead of Houston by one game, and ahead of third place Tampa Bay by four.

On the mound

Starter Ranks
Twins AL Rank A's
5th (3.86) ERA 1st (3.01)
9th (4.06) FIP 1st (3.34)
10th (4.06) xFIP 6th (3.76)

The Twins elected to reset their starting rotation by moving Ervin Santana to the second half opener. Santana was recently reinstated from his 80-game performance enhancing drug suspension for the use of stanozolol, an anabolic steroid. He has made just two starts so far totalling 12 innings.

Phil Hughes makes the Saturday start and will hope to take advantage of Oakland's foul ball territory. 11.4 percent of his fly balls stay on the infield, ranking him 18th out of the 50 qualified AL starters. However, 13.3 percent of his fly balls allowed have gone for home runs this year, ninth most.

Old friend Tommy Milone starts on Sunday. The lefty gets the benefit of the Coliseum, where he owns a career 2.96 ERA, but he has to pitch during the day, when he owns a career ERA of 3.99. Milone has made 11 starts for the Twins this season.

Friday (7:05 PM PDT) Saturday (6:05 PM PDT) Sunday (1:05 PM PDT)
Ervin Santana vs. Sonny Gray Phil Hughes vs. Scott Kazmir Tommy Milone vs. Jesse Chavez
6.00 ERA 2.04 4.32 ERA 2.49 2.83 ERA 3.40
6.74 FIP 2.63 4.64 FIP 3.18 4.28 FIP 3.25
4.15 xFIP 3.28 4.17 xFIP 3.50 4.35 xFIP 3.71
25.0% K% 22.4% 14.4% K% 23.3% 16.3% K% 20.2%
11.5% BB% 6.2% 2.3% BB% 8.3% 8.0% BB% 6.3%
0.87 GB/FB 1.82 0.81 GB/FB 1.39 1.04 GB/FB 1.17

At the plate and in the field

Twins AL Ranks A's
7th (4.30) RS/G 8th (4.29)
12th (94) wRC+ 8th (100)
11th (76) HR 12th (74)
7th (.254) AVG 5th (.256)
11th (.307) OBP 7th (.317)
7th (.400) SLG 11th (.392)
9th (.146) ISO 13th (.136)
8th (44) SB T-6th (51)
7th (47) Errors 15th (78)
9th (-7) DRS 4th (16)
7th (0.2) UZR 14th (-22.4)
10th (.703) DE 2nd (.723)

Minnesota's offense continues to be led by All-Star second baseman Brian Dozier, hitting .256/.328/.513 with 19 home runs, working out to a 131 wRC+. Other power threats include Trevor Plouffe and Torii Hunter, each have over 10 home runs. On the base paths, no Twins player is a standout. Dozier leads his club with nine stolen bases, while Aaron Hicks and Eddie Rosario have seven each.

The Twins face left-hander Scott Kazmir on Saturday, and they own the fourth worst wRC+ in the AL against left-handed pitchers (92).

Sogard Line

The Eric Sogard Line is Sogard's wRC+, representing my gut feel for what represents serviceable offensive production for a bottom of the order hitter with a good glove, but you probably don't want more than one or two of those in your lineup.

Sogard'wRC+ fell from 68 to 66 after 1-for-7 against the Cleveland Indians. The Twins have given 21 percent of their non-pitcher plate appearance to batters at or below the Sogard Line.

Bullpen

Bullpen Ranks
Twins AL Ranks A's
8th (264.2) IP 12th (247.2)
8th (3.71) ERA 14th (4.32)
10th (4.06) FIP 12th (4.21)
15th (4.27) xFIP 10th (3.97)

Left-handed closer Glen Perkins was Minnesota's other All-Star, and he is fifth in ERA among AL relievers (min. 20 innings). He is a perfect 28-for-28 in save opportunities, and leads the AL by four.

Minnesota's bullpen is missing right-hander Ryan Pressly, however, due to a strained lat. Pressly has a 2.93 ERA in 27⅔ innings. In his place is left-hander Ryan O'Rourke, who has not conceded a run in his first three major league appearances.

2015 Stats Recent usage (pitch count from www.rosterresource.com)
Player Hand IP ERA K% BB% GB/FB 16-Jul 15-Jul 14-Jul 13-Jul 12-Jul 11-Jul
Glen Perkins L 37.1 1.21 25.2% 3.5% 0.76 9 8
Casey Fien R 28.1 4.13 13.8% 2.6% 0.73 20
Blaine Boyer R 39.1 2.75 11.0% 7.3% 1.73 26
Brian Duensing L 22.1 5.64 13.8% 10.6% 2.11 15
Trevor May R 84.1 4.16 19.8% 5.0% 1.00 24
Ryan O'Rourke L 2.2 0.00 37.5% 0.0% 1.00
J.R. Graham R 41.0 2.85 19.3% 7.0% 1.21 44

The games

Saturday gets an early start thanks to Hello Kitty Bobblehead Night. There are also two Kevin Hart shows at the Arena that evening, so fans are advised to take BART or arrive early to ensure you get into the game on time.

Time (PT) Probable starters TV Promotion
Friday 7:05 PM Ervin Santana vs. Sonny Gray CSNCA
Saturday 6:05 PM Phil Hughes vs. Scott Kazmir CSNCA Hello Kitty Bobblehead
Sunday 1:05 PM Tommy Milone vs. Jesse Chavez CSNCA