The Oakland Athletics will try to break out the brooms today as they conclude their three-game series with the Minnesota Twins at Target Field.
Oakland scored four runs in the top of the first on Saturday before running away to a 9-3 victory in the second game of the three-game set. Chris Carter hit a three-run home run in the first inning while Yoenis Cespedes, Seth Smith, and Brandon Moss all managed to go deep as well.
The victory put the A's two games over the .500 mark for the first time since May 14. Oakland, which has won eight of its last nine games, is now just 1 1/2 games back of the American League's second Wild Card spot. The A's offense, which is ranked 30th in batting average and 28th in runs, seems to be picking up momentum at the perfect time.
"It's really nice," said Smith after Saturday's win. "You got the guys up front that can set the table and also hit some out, and then Reddick down on the line up, it's pretty deep. We feel anybody has a chance to go deep at any time."
Carter is now 8-for-24 with four home runs and eight RBI in eight games in 2012. The Athletics' first baseman is slowly earning himself a regular spot on the roster after originally being brought up from Triple-A to fill in for the ice-cold Brandon Moss.
Cespedes was in the lineup as Oakland's designated hitter for the second straight game due to an injured thumb. The injury has not been an issue so far as he is 4-for-9 with a double, home run, and three RBI in the first two games of the series.
A's starter Tommy Milone gave up 10 hits in his six innings of work on Saturday, but he limited the damage to just two earned runs. Oakland will turn the ball over to Jarrod Parker for the series finale. Parker went four starts in a row without giving up more than one earned run before he gave up six runs in 4 2/3 innings to Seattle on July 7. The rookie right-hander is 5-4 with a 2.86 ERA in 14 starts this season.
Minnesota will counter with southpaw Brian Duensing. The Twins' left-hander was taken out of his last start after just 4 1/3 innings after he was hit on the ankle by a line drive. Duensing allowed two runs on four hits before the injury sent him to the locker room early.
"I was actually feeling pretty good," Duensing said of the shortened start. "Most of my misses were down, which is one of the big adjustments I wanted to make, and I thought I did a good job of mixing it up."
Duensing is 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA in six career games versus Oakland, winning both of his starts while throwing 16 scoreless innings.
Josh Willingham hit his third home run of the series in Saturday's loss. He is 4-for-7 with three home runs and four RBI in the series and currently has a 15-game hitting streak going. The left fielder has hit a home run in each of his last four games at Target Field. He also has homered in four straight games against Oakland, his former club.
Trevor Plouffe, Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, and Denard Span all extended their respective hitting streaks to 12 games in Saturday's loss.
The Twins swept a three-game series at home over the Athletics in late May and have taken six of the last 10 encounters overall.