The Oakland Athletics appear to be continuing the same success they enjoyed entering the All-Star break.
Back above .500, the visiting A’s look for a third consecutive victory while trying to hand the Minnesota Twins a fourth straight defeat Saturday night.
Jonny Gomes hit a grand slam and drove in five runs as Oakland (44-43) won Friday’s series opener 6-3 to surpass the .500 mark for the first time since it was 22-21 on May 21.
The A’s also won six of seven heading into the All-Star break, and manager Bob Melvin felt his team needed to continue that success this weekend in order to remain a serious postseason contender. Oakland is 1 1/2 games out of the second wild-card spot in the AL.
Gomes was one of three Oakland players with two hits in the series opener.
“You got to swing,” said Gomes, who homered on the first pitch after striking out on three straight pitches in his first plate appearance. “You have to be aggressive, often.”
One of the other players with two hits was Cuban rookie Yoenis Cespedes, who is 11 for 26 (.423) in his last seven road games. Cespedes was also the only member of Oakland’s lineup who was not one of Minnesota starter Francisco Liriano’s 15 strikeout victims.
The A’s failed to do anything earlier this season against scheduled Twins starter and suburban Minneapolis native Cole De Vries (2-1, 3.00 ERA), who gave up two hits and overcame five walks in five scoreless innings while not factoring in the decision of the Twins’ 3-2 victory May 29, his second career outing.
The right-hander has allowed a solo home run and eight hits over 13.0 innings while going 1-0 in his last two starts. He yielded three of those hits in seven scoreless innings of a 4-3, 13-inning loss at Texas on Sunday.
“I’m feeling pretty good right now,” De Vries told the Twins’ official website. “I don’t know how you can’t feel good about yourself.”
Oakland counters with Tommy Milone (8-6, 3.57), who has allowed three earned runs over 28.0 innings while going 2-1 in his last four starts. After giving up six runs - five unearned - in five innings of a 7-2 loss at Texas on June 30, the left-hander yielded one run and struck out a career-high nine in seven innings of the A’s 4-1, 11-inning victory over Seattle on July 6.
Milone is 3-5 with a 5.98 ERA in 10 road starts compared to 5-1 with a 1.03 ERA in seven at home.
He’ll make his first appearance against the Twins (36-50), who have dropped five of six following a season-high five-game winning streak.
Josh Willingham homered twice and drove in all of Minnesota’s runs Friday. With four home runs and eight RBIs in his last three games at Target Field, Willingham has a chance to become the second Twin this season to homer in four consecutive home games. Trevor Plouffe accomplished the feat June 12-15, when he hit five.
Minnesota All-Star catcher Joe Mauer is batting .444 (16 for 36) in his last nine home games.