Minnesota (50-56) at Oakland (47-59)

Fair Currently: Oakland, CA
Temp: 86° F
  • Game info: 9:05 pm EDT Sat Jul 30, 2011
  • TV: FSNO, CSCA
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Minnesota Twins are receiving some positive off-the-field news regarding the health of some of their injured players. On the field, manager Ron Gardenhire’s club is still getting the job done.

The Twins go for a fourth straight win by the Bay on Saturday night when they continue their series against the Oakland Athletics.

With center fielder Denard Span(notes) expected to return Tuesday at Anaheim after missing nearly two months with a concussion and first baseman Justin Morneau(notes) possibly starting a rehab assignment next week following neck surgery June 29, the Twins (50-56) could finally be getting healthy enough to make a run at a third straight AL Central title.

But with the club in fourth place and facing a six-game deficit in the division, Minnesota can’t afford to wait for everyone to return. In their second game since shortstop Alexi Casilla(notes) was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right hamstring, the Twins received good production from their middle infielders in Friday’s 9-5 series-opening victory.

Second baseman Trevor Plouffe(notes) went 2 for 6 with two RBIs and a career high-tying three runs, while shortstop Matt Tolbert(notes) - called up from Triple-A Rochester on Thursday - had two of Minnesota’s 12 hits.

Oakland (47-59) scored all of its runs on two homers by Josh Willingham(notes).

The Twins, winners of three of four, will hand the ball to Nick Blackburn(notes) (7-7, 4.21 ERA) on Saturday. The right-hander is coming off one of the worst starts of his career, a 20-6 loss at Texas on Monday when he allowed nine runs - six earned - and 11 hits over a season-low 2 2-3 innings.

It tied the most runs Blackburn had surrendered in 113 career starts.

“I don’t think I threw more than two or three strikes below the knees the entire night,” he told the Rangers’ official website. “Being a sinkerball pitcher, that’s not a very good way to be successful and get some outs.”

Blackburn, though, has been solid against Oakland this season, going 1-1 with a 0.69 ERA in two starts.

He went 0-4 with a 6.64 ERA in seven starts in this matchup prior to 2011.

The A’s, trying to avoid their first three-game home losing streak since an 0-4 stretch May 30-June 14, will counter with Guillermo Moscoso(notes) (3-5, 3.47), who is 0-1 with a 10.24 ERA in two starts since the All-Star break.

“Maybe not his best two performances the last couple times, but he’s been pretty strong before that,” manager Bob Melvin told the A’s official website after the right-hander lasted five innings in Monday’s 7-5 victory over Tampa Bay, giving up five runs and eight hits. “Everybody’s going to have a couple outings where they’re not at their best, and that’s the way I see it.”

Moscoso will face Minnesota for the first time.

Getting through the middle of the Twins’ lineup could be tough the way Jason Kubel(notes) (.333 with a homer and eight RBIs) and Michael Cuddyer(notes) (.348 with two homers and 6 RBIs) have hit during the first half of the club’s 10-game trip.

A’s shortstop Cliff Pennington(notes), batting .438 (21 for 48) during a career-high 13-game hitting streak, is 4 for 11 with a double and a homer off Blackburn.

Right fielder David DeJesus(notes), who has 12 hits in 27 at-bats against the right-hander, is 1 for 13 off Twins pitching at home this season.

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Starting Pitchers

N. Blackburn Min vs. G. Moscoso SF
7-10 Record 8-10
4.49 ERA 3.38
76 K 74
54 BB 38
1.60 WHIP 1.09

Scoreboard

Saturday, Jul 30