The Oakland Athletics look to gain a small measure of revenge against the team that knocked them out of last year’s playoffs as they open a three-game series with the Minnesota Twins at Network Associates Coliseum.
After tying the New York Yankees for the most wins in baseball with 103 in 2002, the A’s were unceremoniously sent home by the Twins in the AL Division Series.
Oakland held a 2-1 series lead but failed to close out Minnesota, losing Game 5 at home. The A’s have lost a Game 5 in the opening round of the playoffs in each of the last three seasons, twice to the New York Yankees before last season’s disappointment against the Twins.
Tim Hudson will take the mound for the A’s on Tuesday. Hudson is 1-0 over his last three starts despite boasting a minuscule 1.50 ERA over that span.
Hudson has dominated the Twins during his career, going 5-0 with 58 strikeouts and a 1.76 ERA in eight career regular-season starts against Minnesota.
The A’s, who have lost three of their last five, are coming of an 8-5 setback to Cleveland on Sunday.
The Twins have won 11 of 14 to leap over slumping Kansas City into first place in the AL Central for the first time this season. The Twins are a half-game ahead after trailing the Royals by eight games on April 28.
“We’re the hunted now,” Twins center fielder Torii Hunter said.
Minnesota is embarking on a tough six-game road trip against Oakland and Seattle, the two top teams in the AL West.
“We’ve hit a little hot stretch,” Twins starter Kyle Lohse said. “It shows the hard work is paying off. But it’s early and there’s a lot of baseball left.”
Twins first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz will not travel to Oakland because of an ankle injury. Team spokesman Mike Herman said Mientkiewicz will join the team at its next stop in Seattle.
Mientkiewicz injured his ankle during Sunday’s 3-2 win over the Chicago White Sox.
“My coaches think he’ll just be out for five or six days, and I guess we can live with that,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
STANDINGS: Twins - 1st place, AL Central. Athletics - 2nd place, 2 GB, AL West.
TWINS PROBABLE STARTER: Rick Reed (2-4, 4.54 ERA). Reed has pitched much better than his numbers indicate. The 37-year-old right-hander has given up just three runs over his last three starts. Reed pitched a three-hitter for his first win in a month, beating the Royals 7-0 on Wednesday.
ATHLETICS PROBABLE STARTER: Hudson (3-1, 2.88 ERA). The hard-throwing righty failed to earn a decision in his last outing. Hudson went eight innings, allowing one run and seven hits as Oakland lost to Detroit 2-1 on Wednesday.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Twins - Jacques Jones, .347 avg., 28 runs and 6 SBs.; Bobby Kielty and Torii Hunter, 6 HRs; Corey Koskie and Hunter, 27 RBIs. Athletics - Ramon Hernandez, .306 avg.; Miguel Tejada, 9 HRs; Erubiel Durazo, 31 RBIs and 28 runs; Eric Chavez, 3 SBs.
2002 SEASON SERIES: Athletics, 6-3.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Twins - INF Denny Hocking, INF Todd Sears and INF Matthew LeCroy could all see time at first in Mientkiewicz’s absence. … OF Hunter batted only .219 (7-for-32) against the A’s last season. … The Twins have raised their batting average from .247 to .277 since the end of April. Athletics - OF Eric Byrnes has a 10-game hitting streak. He’s raised his batting average from .295 to .323 over that span. … SS Tejada is batting .303 (59-for-195) with seven home runs in 52 career games against Minnesota. Tejada is hitless in his last eight at- bats, dropping his average to .201. … RHP Keith Foulke is tied for second in the AL with 11 saves, matching his total from all of last season.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Twins - 12-8 on the road; Athletics - 16-5 at home.