Twins-Athletics Preview

The Associated Press

After another offensive barrage, the Oakland Athletics find themselves on the verge of winning the AL West.

The Minnesota Twins, meanwhile, likely can't wait to leave town.

The slugging Athletics try to lock up their second consecutive division title when they go for a four-game sweep against the Twins on Sunday.

Alberto Callaspo, Yoenis Cespedes and Kurt Suzuki all homered and drove in a combined eight runs as Oakland (92-63) cut its magic number to secure the West to one with Saturday's 9-1 victory. Jed Lowrie added three hits for the A's, who can also clinch if Texas loses to Kansas City.

"It's something where we know we've got to take care of what we do, and if we win it's going to take care of itself," winning pitcher Jarrod Parker said. "Right now we got to do what we do. We know it's right there. If we handle what we do and we win games, it's going to happen."

Oakland has clubbed a major league-leading 42 homers while going a major league-best 20-6 since Aug. 26. The A's have hit .376 in taking five straight from Minnesota (65-89) by a 54-12 margin.

"Any mistake you make right now they jump on you," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, whose team has dropped 13 of 17. "It's like piranhas with blood in the water. They add on and just keep swinging. Every time we made a mistake they just kill you. They are really getting after it."

The A's now give the ball to rookie Sonny Gray (3-3, 2.50 ERA), who has struck out 50 in as many innings over eight starts, yielding two earned runs or fewer in all but one of those outings.

After allowing two runs in five innings to beat the Twins 18-3 on Sept. 11, the right-hander yielded one in six innings Tuesday in a 2-1 walkoff victory over the Los Angeles Angels.

Gray will try to slow down Twins catcher Josmil Pinto, who went 2 for 3 with a homer Saturday. The rookie is hitting .377 with three homers and nine RBIs in 15 games.

Minnesota's Josh Willingham was held out with a sore left foot, leaving his status for Sunday unknown. Willingham, who spent 2011 with the A's, is batting .396 with seven homers and 17 RBIs in 14 games against his former team.

The Twins turn to Cole De Vries (0-0, 7.88) for his first start of the year. The right-hander has surrendered seven runs in two relief appearances spanning eight innings since getting called up Sept. 9, including three in three innings against the A's on Sept. 11.

De Vries went 5-5 with a 3.99 ERA in 16 starts as a rookie in 2012.

"It'll be nice to see Cole go out there and take the mound again. He pitched pretty well for us last year in some big games against some good teams," Gardenhire told MLB's official website. "It'll be interesting to see how he does out there as a starter. ... He knows how to change speeds and move the ball in and out."

Contrary to Gardenhire's remarks, De Vries went 0-2 with a 5.17 ERA in three starts versus Oakland last season. He only received a combined two runs of support in those outings, though.

Cespedes and Seth Smith have both taken De Vries deep, going a combined 5 for 12 in their matchups. Cespedes, who has homered in three straight games, is batting .361 with six homers and 19 RBIs this month.

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