By: Jack O’Keefe
Two for a dollar. Double the fun. Let’s play two! Whatever you call it, we are in line for two games today between the Minnesota Twins and Oakland Athletics. The game yesterday was postponed, due to COVID-19 contact tracing among traveling party members of the Minnesota Twins. The Twins have not played since April 17th, with the last two games of the series against the Angels being postponed. Matt Shoemaker will get the start for the Twins in Game 1, while Sean Manaea will go for the Athletics. What can we expect to see in the first act of the day? Read below to find out!
Money Line: MIN +108, OAK -118
Run Line: MIN +1.5 (-195), OAK -1.5 (+168)
Total: 6.5 (O -110, U -110)
First Pitch: 5:30 PM CST, Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, CA
Minnesota Twins (6-8)
After opening the 2021 season winning their first two series against the Brewers and Tigers, the Twins have hit a bit of a rough patch in the schedule. Minnesota lost two out of three against Seattle and then promptly lost three out of four games against Boston. The westward road trip has been unkind to the Twins thus far, with a 10-3 loss on their resume thanks to the Angels. It is hard telling how the Twins will respond to having several days off, but for those in Minnesota, the hope is this break will give them a chance to refocus and get back to their winning ways.
The Twins have been getting significant production from Nelson Cruz and Byron Buxton, but they are going to need a little more production from their lineup besides two hitters. Jorge Polanco and Miguel Sano are two key pieces that the Twins will need to get going for them to a contending team in the AL Central this season. Polanco hit .258 last season, a slight regression from the .295 batting average he had in 2019, but there was no reason to believe his batting average would be anything worse than .240 in a season. As it stands now, Polanco is batting a horrendous .167 and has struck out 11 times in 54 plate appearances. Miguel Sano is expected to rack up his fair share of strikeouts, the Twins are willing to sacrifice this for his homerun potential. Miguel Sano only has two homeruns though this season, so that is not the production the Twins are looking for out of their big bopper. In 2019, Sano had 34 homeruns on the season, one per 11.17 plate appearances. This season, Sano is homering once in every 17 plate appearances.
Along with questionable hitting, the Twins have had a few question marks from a pitching perspective this season. None bigger than their off-season acquisition closer, Alex Colome. The 32-year old veteran has compiled a 5.68 ERA this season with two blown saves already this season. Colome was simply unhittable last season with the Chicago White Sox, notching a 0.81 ERA and going 12-for-13 in the save department in the abbreviated season. The starting pitching, featuring Jose Berrios and Kenta Maeda, has been pretty middle-of-the-road so far this season.
Having a healthy Andrelton Simmons and Josh Donaldson will be key to the success for the Twins going forward. Should Polanco and Sano get out of their hitting funks and Colome recapture his dominance displayed in 2020, the Twins can look back at this COVID-19 pause in April as the turning point for the season to get back to their winning ways. Matt Shoemaker makes the start in Game 1 of the double-header on Tuesday. Shoemaker was hit hard by the Mariners in his previous outing, allowing seven hits and four earned runs over five innings pitched. Oakland batters are a career .278 with four homeruns and 11 RBIs against the right-handed pitcher. Familiar AL West foe, Mitch Moreland, is a career .417 hitter with 3 homeruns and 7 RBIs.
Oakland Athletics (9-7)
Make it eight straight for the A’s. Fresh off their four-game sweep of the streaking Detroit Tigers, the Athletics look to continue their winning ways against the Minnesota Twins. The aforementioned Moreland ended the game Sunday with a walk-off hit in the bottom of the ninth inning. After opening the season 0-6, the A’s have now rattled off nine wins out of their last 10 ballgames.
Ramon Laureano has shown off his speed on the base path this season, but the centerfielder legged out an RBI triple in the fourth inning, propelling the A’s in front 1-0. The game was tied late in the bottom of the eighth inning, thanks to a big fly off the bat off Sean Murphy. Then of course, we were treated to some walk-off heroics thanks to a costly error by the Detroit Tigers. Jed Lowrie saw his hit streak snapped on Sunday, as the second baseman went 0-for-4. He is still hitting .333 on the season and one of the top RBI men in baseball so far this season with 12.
As solid as the bats have been in late game situations for the A’s this season, make no doubt that the starting pitching has certainly cleaned things up a bit. The A’s starters all went six or more innings against the Tigers. Any time a team can get quality start after quality start, that makes the bullpen feel a tremendous amount of weight off their shoulders. This has shown to be true as well, as the A’s bullpen pitched 12 innings this past series against Detroit and only allowed two earned runs in that span (1.50 ERA). It looks very certain that Lou Trivino is going to be the team’s closer going forward this season, as he picked up two saves over the weekend. The 29-year old Trivino has only allowed one run on the season (0.84 ERA), so I do not fault Melvin for a minute on riding the hot hand so to speak in the ninth inning to nail down the save.
Sean Manaea looks to continue the quality start streak by Oakland A’s starting pitching as he gets the ball for Game 1. Manaea has been sharp in his last two starts, so he will look to have the good vibes continue on Tuesday. He struck out seven batters in his last start against Detroit, the most in a start by Manaea since last September. Of the Twin hitters who could cause Manaea issues, Nelson Cruz is among the greatest threats in the lineup. Cruz has a .368 career batting average, along with three homeruns and eight RBIs against the right-handed pitcher.
Analysis and Prediction
The A’s have sling-shot themselves back into third place in the division, right on the tails of the Angels and Mariners (1.5 games back). It feels like they may never lose again, but we obviously know this is not the case. The Twins have been well-rested and they are going to do all they can to knock Manaea out of the game. As we mentioned earlier, Shoemaker has given up his fair share of runs against the A’s this season, and I believe we are in for another game with the A’s scoring early and often. The First team to reach 5 runs in this double-header should come out on top for Game 1. The A’s have had three unders hit in a row, so I think the tide will change in Game 1 of the double header. I am going to back the O6.5 (-110) runs as my best bet.
Jack’s 2021 MLB picks: (6-5)
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