No team in baseball has been better than Minnesota over the past two months, and it’s been even longer since the Twins lost a series at the Metrodome. The woeful Oakland Athletics seem unlikely to threaten that streak.
Tied for first place in the AL Central, the Twins try for their fifth straight win Monday when they open a three-game set against the A’s, baseball’s worst team since the All-Star break.
Minnesota (70-53) was a sub-.500 team in mid-June, but they have the best record in the major leagues since June 17. The Twins are 36-17 in the past two months - a record that’s all the more impressive considering they are 11-11 on the road in that span.
Minnesota has gone 25-6 in its last 31 games at the Metrodome to climb to the top of the division - a surge due in large part to a prolific offense.
The Twins have averaged 6.2 runs in those 31 home games, a number they pushed up during a three-game sweep of Seattle over the weekend. Minnesota scored 27 runs in the series, capped by an 11-8 win Sunday.
The victory wasn’t without its tense moments, as the Twins saw an 8-0 lead nearly slip away before Joe Nathan got the final four outs, leaving the bases loaded twice.
“(Nathan) is so good,” Twins center fielder Denard Span told the team’s official Web site. “I’ve seen him get out of jams so much this season. … When the game is on the line, you see the best Joe Nathan.”
The Twins’ All-Star closer helped Minnesota win its 10th consecutive series at the Metrodome since losing two of three to Baltimore from June 3-5.
Minnesota’s Jason Kubel helped power the offensive outburst against Seattle, going 8-for-10 with a homer and six RBIs in the three games. He lifted his average to .278, the highest it’s been since mid-April.
“This is probably my best series of my career,” Kubel said.
Though Minnesota has allowed an uncharacteristically high 28 runs in its last five games, a series with Oakland (56-67) could be the perfect opportunity for the Twins pitching staff to bounce back. The A’s score slightly less than four runs per game, but they’ve averaged 2.8 since the All-Star break in going 5-23.
They picked up a rare win Friday by beating Chicago 6-4, but totaled two runs in the series’ final two games, capped by a 13-1 loss Sunday.
“They keep fighting,” manager Bob Geren told Oakland’s official Web site. “Win or lose, they keep fighting to the end, so I’ve been satisfied with their effort. The execution is something we just have to improve on.”
The A’s will try to get their offense going Monday against Nick Blackburn (9-6, 3.73 ERA). The rookie right-hander has looked excellent in stretches this season, but struggled in his latest start. He gave up four runs in 4 2-3 innings of a 9-6, 12-inning loss to New York on Tuesday.
Blackburn has never faced the A’s.
All-Star Justin Duchscherer (10-8, 2.59) will oppose Blackburn. Duchscherer hasn’t pitched well recently, going 0-2 with a 6.17 ERA in his last four starts, but was better in his last outing. He gave up three runs over 6 1-3 innings in a 3-2 loss to Tampa Bay on Wednesday.
Oakland took two of three at home against the Twins from April 22-24.