It is going to be a difficult week. Over the next seven days, the A’s are travelling to the Twin Cities for four games and then to Houston for three more. It should be the most challenging week left in the season for the A’s, as the two teams have the 2nd and 3rd best records in the American League, and have led their divisions with ease for much of the season. However, with both the Twins and Astros playing middling baseball over the last month, paired with strong surges up the standings from both the A’s and the Indians, those large comfortable division leads are looking a little bit tighter, and there is a non zero chance that this week will result in some rather radical changes in the standings by the end of it.
Since dropping two of three to the A’s the last time these two teams squared off earlier this month, the Twins have played .500 ball, and enter this series having lost three straight games to the Indians and Mets combined. The Twins still have the best run scoring offense in the American League, and their pitching is still respectable, but a lot of close games have gone the other way for the Twins recently, and the team looks as though it needs to make a few deadline moves to add some new life onto the squad, revitalize the team, and perhaps reverse their close game fortune of late.
The best first half performers on offense on the Twins, in either a starting or supporting role, are Mitch Garver, Luis Arraez, and Nelson Cruz. Mitch Garver, while taking a little more than a third of the Twins’ total at bats from the catcher position, is hitting .295/.375/.609 on the year with 13 home runs. That kind of offensive production from the catcher’s position is rare and enviable. Also notable is Max Kepler, who led the team in home runs hit during the first half of the year, with 21 in total.
The top first half performers on the pitching staff, in either a starting or relieving role, are Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, and Taylor Rogers. Berrios and Odorizzi performed well enough to make a stacked American League All Star squad. The Twins’ starting rotation has stayed remarkably healthy as well this year, as their starting five have made all but five starts this season.
It is going to be a tough week, but the A’s do have the second best record in the American League against teams over .500, and have proven that they can rise up to the strongest competition out there. The A’s have the best record in the sport since mid-May, with a homer happy offense and an improving and healing pitching staff that has been deceptively good following an inconsistent start, and so no challenge is too great.
First place is right around the corner.
Jorge Polanco - SS
Marwin Gonzalez - RF
Nelson Cruz - DH
Eddie Rosario - LF
C.J. Cron - 1B
Max Kepler - CF
Miguel Sano - 3B
Jonathan Schoop - 2B
Jason Castro - C
Mike Fiers vs Kyle Gibson
Chris Bassitt vs Jake Odorizzi
Brett Anderson vs Jose Berrios
Daniel Mengden vs Michael Pineda
Game #98: Thursday, July 18th at 5:10
Game #99: Friday, July 19th at 5:10
Game #100: Saturday, July 20th at 4:10
Game #101: Sunday, July 21st at 11:10
All games will be broadcast on NBCSCA.