(Sports Network) – The Oakland Athletics try to continue their offensive onslaught this evening when they open a three-game series with the Minnesota Twins at the Coliseum. After managing 43 runs in its 18 games before the All-Star break, Oakland’s bats have come alive, as the team is hitting a major league-best .317 since the Mid-Summer Classic. The A’s have also totaled four or more runs in eight straight games.
Oakland continued to hit the ball on Thursday, jumping out to a five-run first-inning lead, but its bullpen let it down, allowing seven runs in the seventh en route to a 10-8 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
“We got a nice little lead (Thursday) and with our pitching we should win those games,” said A’s manager Bob Melvin. “Sometimes you have to give the other team a little credit, too. After three games, they didn’t stop fighting.”
Hoping for a little bit of that run support tonight will be lefty Gio Gonzalez, who is 9-7 with a 2.67 ERA. Gonzalez was banged around his last time out on Sunday in New York, as the Yankees reached him for six runs and seven hits in 4 2/3 innings. Gonzalez tossed six scoreless innings to beat the Twins the last time he faced them and is 2-2 with an 8.03 ERA in five starts against them.
Minnesota, meanwhile, will counter with a left-hander of its own in Francisco Liriano, who is 6-8 on the year with a 4.82 ERA. Liriano couldn’t get out of the third inning on Sunday against Detroit, as he allowed four runs and six hits with four walks in just 2 1/3 innings.
“We were trying to get him to just throw his fastball over the plate, and he really couldn’t find anything,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He was spinning off the ball. Hopefully, there will be better days ahead for him.”
The left-hander has faced the A’s 10 times (eight starts) and is just 1-3 against them with a 4.91 ERA. Minnesota can ill afford another sub-par outing from Liriano, as it continues to try to pull itself out from an awful start to the year. The Twins enter tonight’s tilt having lost five of their last eight following a split in their four-game series with the Texas Rangers.
Despite being seven games under .500, the Twins find themselves just six games back in the American League Central. Minnesota has won three of its five matchups with the A’s this season.