Dan Haren’s unbeaten run has coincided with the Oakland Athletics’ surge toward a playoff spot.
Haren will try to win his eighth straight decision when the surging Athletics continue their four-game series with the slumping Minnesota Twins.
The 24-year-old right-hander is 7-0 with a 4.00 ERA over his last 12 starts. The Athletics have won 40 of their last 54 games and now trail the first-place Los Angeles Angels by just one game in the AL West race, and lead the wild-card chase by two over the New York Yankees.
Haren gave up four runs and a career-high 12 hits over 5 1-3 innings Wednesday in a 5-4, 10-inning victory over Cleveland. It marked the third time in four outings that he failed to pitch at least six innings.
The A’s, who trailed Los Angeles by 12 1/2 games on May 29, can move into a tie for first place with a win Tuesday and a loss by the Angels to Baltimore.
Oakland stretched its road winning streak to seven with a 2-1 win in Monday’s series opener. Rookie Joe Blanton and a pair of relievers combined on a two-hitter and Scott Hatteberg’s RBI single in the seventh inning snapped a tie.
A’s first baseman Dan Johnson went 1-for-4 Monday, and is batting .472 (17-for-36) over his last 10 games.
“This is one of my top moments in baseball,” said Johnson, a native of Coon Rapids, Minn., who had more than 150 family and friends on hand for his first major league game in the Metrodome.
The free-falling Twins have dropped five straight for the first time since July 9-16, 2004. Minnesota, which has won three straight AL Central crowns, fell into third place in the division, 15 1/2 games behind first-place Chicago.
The loss wasn’t the only bad news for the Twins as they learned before the game that injured center fielder Torii Hunter could miss the rest of the season with a broken left ankle. The Twins have scored just 63 runs since the All-Star break, second fewest in the AL.
Minnesota released struggling second baseman Bret Boone on Monday. Boone, acquired in a trade with Seattle on July 11, hit .170 (9-for-53) with three RBIs in 14 games with the Twins.
The Twins will use Nick Punto at second base and Jason Bartlett, who was recalled Monday from Triple-A Rochester, at shortstop for the next few games. Punto and Bartlett each went 0-for-3 in Monday’s loss.
“I’m going to try to keep those two out there together,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. “You get some speed out there at (shortstop) and second. Maybe we can run the bases a little bit and see what happens.”