Twins-Athletics Preview

The Associated Press

After struggling earlier this month, the Oakland Athletics seem to have gotten back on track. Facing the Minnesota Twins could help them keep it going.

The Athletics look to win their fifth straight Monday night when they begin a three-game home series against the slumping Twins.

Oakland (65-55) starts the week a half-game back of the second AL wild-card spot after completing a three-game sweep of Cleveland with a 7-0 win Sunday.

The Athletics had lost seven of 10 before their current run. They hit .228 and scored three runs or fewer six times in that 10-game funk, but they've scored 24 runs while batting .289 during the winning streak.

Coco Crisp went 3 for 5 with a season-high five RBIs on Sunday to back eight strong innings from Jarrod Parker. Crisp hit a three-run homer in the fifth inning - his seventh home run of the season and second in four games - after driving in two runs in Saturday's 8-5 win.

"The guys we have here now, we can always have fun together," Crisp told the Athletics' official website. "We all feel comfortable, even the rookies fit in. There's a bunch of great personalities in here."

Yoenis Cespedes has also come up big over the last four games, going 6 for 14 with two homers, two doubles and four RBIs. Before that stretch, he had gone 15 straight games without an extra-base hit.

Cespedes had a productive series last month in Minnesota, going 8 for 14 with two homers and six RBIs as Oakland swept the three-game set.

The Athletics will try to keep the offense going for Brandon McCarthy (6-4, 2.68 ERA).

McCarthy hasn't pitched poorly in two starts since a stint on the disabled list with a strained right shoulder, but Oakland has lost both games. The right-hander allowed three runs in 6 2-3 innings - two of them in the seventh to squander a lead - during a 3-2 loss at Kansas City on Wednesday.

"I'm not happy with myself," said McCarthy, who had won his previous six decisions. "There are a lot of things I could have done better."

McCarthy is 2-0 with a 2.86 ERA in four career starts against the Twins, and he'll try to hand Minnesota (50-70) its sixth straight loss, which would match a season high.

The Twins were swept in Seattle over the weekend. They went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position during Sunday's 5-1 defeat.

"This series here, we scored six runs, I think. Six runs in three days is not good enough." manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We are just not clicking, not getting our hits when we're supposed to and we are missing opportunities."

Gardenhire's club hasn't dropped six straight since April 21-27.

Brian Duensing (2-8, 4.69) will try to end the losing streak Monday, but he has lost his last two starts and is 1-6 with a 6.34 ERA in eight games as a starter in 2012.

The left-hander gave up five runs and eight hits in six innings of an 8-4 loss to Detroit on Tuesday.

"It's really frustrating when you come out and put your team down right away, it's hard to have a chance to win," Duensing said.

He did the same thing July 15 against Oakland, allowing six runs and three homers in two innings of a 9-4 loss in his shortest start of the season.

Twins outfielder Josh Willingham will be playing his first game in Oakland since spending last year with the A's. He has five of his career-high 31 homers in six home games against Oakland this season.

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