A spirited second-half surge has the Oakland Athletics within an eyelash of repeating as American League West champions. With a magic number of one, the Athletics may be handed the crown while playing the finale of their four-game series against the visiting Minnesota Twins on Sunday. Second-place Texas, which takes the field approximately two hours earlier, would bow out of contention with a loss to Kansas City - or Oakland can wrap it up with a win of its own.
Although the Rangers wouldn't accommodate on Saturday, the Athletics more than held up their end of the bargain with a convincing 9-1 rout of the Twins. Alberto Callaspo belted a two-run homer among his four hits while Kurt Suzuki and Yoenis Cespedes also went deep for Oakland, which is a major league-best 17-5 since Aug. 30. Conversely, Minnesota is spiraling in the other direction with 13 losses in 17 contests.
TV: 4:05 p.m. ET, FSN North (Minnesota), CSN California (Oakland)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Twins RH Cole De Vries (0-0, 7.88 ERA) vs. Athletics RH Sonny Gray (3-3, 2.50)
Liam Hendriks' struggles have opened the door for De Vries, who moved into the starting rotation. The 28-year-old has been victimized by the home-run ball, permitting four in two outings (eight innings). De Vries allowed four runs on six hits in five innings against the Chicago White Sox on Monday.
Gray pitched well in his last outing on Tuesday, yielding one run on five hits in six innings before walking away with a no-decision against the Los Angeles Angels. The 23-year-old secured a victory over Minnesota on Sept. 11, allowing two runs on four hits in five frames. Gray has been stingy with the home-run ball, serving up only three in 54 innings.
1. Oakland has scored 54 runs en route to winning its last five contests versus Minnesota.
2. Twins 2B Brian Dozier has eight hits - including a pair of doubles - in his last six contests.
3. A sore right shoulder is doing little to slow down Cespedes, who has belted six of his 26 homers in September.
PREDICTION: Athletic 4, Twins 3