One of the top pitching staffs in baseball gets a crack at the least productive offense so far this season when the Minnesota Twins open a three-game road series against the Oakland Athletics on Friday night
The Twins selected right-hander Kenta Maeda to get the ball rolling in the second half, while the A's, amid a bit of an expected roster upheaval, are opting to wait until the dust settles on game day to disclose their starter
The Twins finished the first half a half-game behind the Cleveland Guardians in the American League Central. A win in Friday's opener would get Minnesota back to .500 after a three-game losing streak to end the first half dropped the club one game below
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli hopes his club's best has yet to come
"We still have an entire half ahead of us with a good team and we're in striking distance," Baldelli said. "It's still right there. It's right in front of us. It gives us something to charge at."
The Twins posted baseball's third-best ERA (3.68) and second-best average allowed (.228) in the first half
Maeda (2-5, 5.18 ERA) hasn't contributed much so far, largely due to a right triceps injury suffered in late April. He returned to pitch well in three starts leading into the All-Star break, yielding just three earned runs in 17 innings.
The 35-year-old has made just two career starts against the A's and neither went well. He was roughed up for 12 runs (10 earned) and 16 hits in seven innings, going 0-0 with a 12.86 ERA in those games.
Maeda should expect to be facing a couple of new faces after the A's ranked dead-last in all of baseball in the first half in runs (329) and batting average (.221).
Both marks actually are higher than 2022, when the Athletics put up only 306 runs and hit just .211 in the first half. No other A's team scored fewer than 329 runs in a first half since 2012 (319)
Oakland is expected to promote two of its top prospects from Triple-A Las Vegas for the second-half opener -- catcher/first baseman Tyler Soderstrom and infielder Zack Gelof.
Soderstrom, 21, was hitting .254 with 20 home runs in 69 games for Las Vegas this year, while Gelof, 23, was batting .304 with 12 homers, also in 69 games.
Oakland sent just one player to the All-Star Game -- outfielder Brent Rooker -- and he represented the team well, doubling in his first at-bat before hitting a liner that the National League turned into a double play his other time up.
Rooker -- and everyone else in attendance and watching on television -- heard those in the Seattle crowd chanting "Sell the team" when he came to the plate for the first time.
"Oakland fans have made it very clear how passionate they are about their team and their city," Rooker said to the national media. "That is pretty special. Anybody who shows that kind of passion for something, there's something to be said about that."
The clubs will be meeting for the first time this season. The Twins won five of six from the A's last year, holding them to one run or fewer three times and outscoring them 26-14
--Field Level Media