Two second-place teams that enter the final 10 days of the regular season worlds apart in the playoff picture go head-to-head when the Minnesota Twins and Oakland Athletics open a three-game series on Friday night.
The Twins (71-81) are the hotter of the two teams, having won four straight, but all it has accomplished is allow them to clinch second place in the American League Central behind the front-running Cleveland Indians.
Minnesota has been formally eliminated from postseason consideration.
The A’s (92-61), meanwhile, are coming off a 21-3 romp over the Los Angeles Angels that allowed them to win two of three in the home series.
Thursday’s one-sided triumph increased Oakland’s advantage over Tampa Bay (85-66) to six games in their pursuit of the second wild-card playoff spot in the AL.
The A’s are still alive in the AL West race, but trail Houston (95-57) by 3 1/2 games with just nine to play.
The A’s and Twins met in Minneapolis in August, with Minnesota taking the series opener 6-4 before Oakland rebounded for a 7-1 and two 6-2 victories.
Right-hander Jose Berrios (11-11, 3.81 ERA) pitched the first 6-2 loss for the Twins, allowing three runs, including a Matt Chapman solo homer, in five innings.
He will get a second crack at Oakland in Friday’s series opener. His loss last month left him with an 0-1 record and 5.40 ERA lifetime record against the A’s.
Berrios, the Twins’ top winner, hasn’t won since Aug. 4, a seven-start stretch. He pitched well enough to win in his last two outings, giving up a combined three runs and eight hits in 12 innings in back-to-back losses to Kansas City.
Berrios will be opposed, for one inning, anyway, by Oakland “opener” Liam Hendriks (0-1, 5.30) as the A’s try bullpenning for the seventh time this month.
Hendriks has gotten progressively better at the one-inning starter role, having shut out his last five opponents on a total of two hits.
He threw a 1-2-3 first inning against the Angels on Tuesday night, requiring just seven pitches to navigate the inning.
Chances are Hendriks won’t have to deal with the Twins’ hottest hitter, rookie catcher Willians Astudillo, who has seven hits and five RBIs in his last four games.
Astudillo batted sixth (twice), eighth and ninth in those games.
The A’s will open the series riding the momentum of season-best outputs in runs and hits (22) in the 21-3 shellacking of the Angels on Thursday afternoon.
The Twins, who finished a three-game sweep at Detroit on Wednesday, had the day off.
Oakland’s hitters went 12-for-17 with runners in scoring position against the Angels, helping the A’s win the three-game series after having lost the opener 9-7 on Tuesday night.
The A’s have won 12 of their last 14 home series and tied the other two, a 14-series non-losing run that’s the franchise best since a 19-gamer in 1931.
Stephen Piscotty highlighted 10-0 and 21-3 wins the last two days with a single, double, two homers and nine RBIs in seven at-bats.
He has hit seven homers in September.
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