The stunning streak is over. Your Minnesota Twins finally fell for the third straight time on Wednesday, losing 14-4 to the Mets. Through 94 games, Minnesota is 2.5 games behind the Yankees for the first seed in the playoffs.
This is the toughest stretch of the second half for the Twins. Oakland comes to town this evening for a four game set, and the Yankees will follow next week. Both teams are well above .500 and Oakland is red hot with a +31 run differential in five wins since the break. Perspective would suggest they pounded on poor teams, as the White Sox and Mariners are among the many rebuilders this season. Still, Oakland snatched two of three from Minnesota in their last meeting and the Twins losing series' is notable with how well they have performed.
The opener will send Oakland's top man to the hill in Mike Fiers. The right hander has a 3.61 ERA in 20 starts. Fiers has strung together 10 straight quality starts, and hasn't given up more than one run since early June. Fiers went six full against the Twins on July 3rd, striking out four and allowing 5 hits.
Twins Daily writer Ted Schwerzler acknowledged where this recent slump in the Twins lineup is coming from. It isn't Miguel Sano, who has built his average back up to .233. Nelson Cruz, Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler and C.J Cron all have sub .750 OPS numbers since the end of June. The usual producers aren't producing and relying on the developing young star Luis Arraez is exciting but detrimental.
Kyle Gibson is also in a spot to return to form. Gibson could not get through the fourth in Cleveland after rolling to start the game. Fortunately, Gibson has been tremendous at Target Field in 2019. His 3.69 ERA and 5-1 record show this. Gibson has allowed just three home runs in 46.1 innings at home. He may have trouble navigating Matt Chapman and Khris Davis, but this Oakland lineup is manageable.
In the last meeting, former Twins Robbie Grossman and Chris Herrmann went 12 for 18 with six RBIs. Herrmann is a career .208 hitter. Grossman has just 28 RBIs on the season and a total of 221 in his 7-year MLB career.
This is a large opportunity for the Twins to post on Fiers, get to the Oakland bullpen early and for Kyle Gibson to confidently handle this strangely dangerous Athletics lineup.
I foresee the cream rising to the top this evening. Nelson Cruz owns a .353 average and .929 OPS in 17 appearances against Fiers.
Game 1 prediction: 6-2 Minnesota.