The Oakland Athletics have relied on steady pitching out of the gate, while the Minnesota Twins’ arms have been mostly unable to complement a high-scoring offense.
Oakland seeks its 13th win in 15 meetings and eighth in a row Wednesday at Target Field.
The A’s (4-3) didn’t have Coco Crisp (wrist) in their lineup Monday, Yoenis Cespedes played despite a bruised heel and Jed Lowrie exited after being hit by a pitch, but they still spoiled Minnesota’s home opener with an 8-3 victory.
Crisp, hitting .370 with four homers and 10 RBIs over his last seven games against the Twins, could return Wednesday while Lowrie is day-to-day. Cespedes ranks second on the team with six RBIs and is one of four Oakland players to appear in every game. He and Brandon Moss, who has seven RBIs, each drove in two runs Monday.
"Everyone knows their strengths and they don’t go outside of their game, and I think that’s what makes us a great overall ballclub and very deadly down the stretch of the whole season," catcher Derek Norris said.
Oakland’s starters have not allowed more than three runs in any game and have pitched at least six innings in six of seven. Wednesday’s scheduled starter, Jesse Chavez (0-0, 1.50 ERA), lasted six in his third career start and first with Oakland on Thursday when he limited Seattle to two runs – one earned – and five hits in a 3-2 victory.
The Twins (3-4) appear much improved on offense, ranking near the top of the majors with 5.9 runs per game after finishing 25th in 2013 with 3.8. They’ve produced despite Joe Mauer hitting .250 with no RBIs, striking out seven times in the last five games.
Outfielders Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia both sat out Monday due to wrist injuries, though general manager Rob Antony told the Twins’ website that the team is optimistic both will avoid the disabled list and be able to play Wednesday.
The surprising Chris Colabello has fueled the club’s strong offensive start, hitting safely in all seven games with a .370 average, four doubles and 11 RBIs. He hit .194 with 58 strikeouts in 55 games last season.
"I’m not trying to do too much," Colabello said. "I’m staying relaxed. It’s nice to have that experience last year and learn from my mistakes."
But the Twins, who were 29th in baseball last season with a 4.55 ERA, have posted a 6.46 mark in 2014 while receiving just one quality start. The rotation has served up eight homers while walking 17 in 37 innings.
They hope Phil Hughes (0-0, 7.20) looks better than he did in his Minnesota debut last Thursday against the White Sox. He yielded four runs and seven hits – including two homers – over five innings in a 10-9 road win. Hughes’ 1.58 home runs allowed per nine innings from 2012-13 was the second-highest rate in the majors.
He may enjoy pitching at Target Field, where teams totaled 142 homers last year – second-fewest in the AL. Hughes has a 2.11 ERA in three career starts there, allowing one homer in 21 1-3 innings. He’s 3-2 with a 4.33 ERA over 10 career appearances versus Oakland, including seven starts.
The A’s would clinch their fifth straight series victory over Minnesota with a win Wednesday. They haven’t won eight consecutive games over the Twins since 1995-96.
Willingham owns an OPS of 1.369 with seven homers and 17 RBIs over 14 games against his former team since leaving Oakland to sign with the Twins prior to the 2012 season.