After a dismal start, the A’s have moved into contention for a wild-card berth after winning 21 of their past 34 games.
The A’s are 43-43 and just 2½ games out of the second wild-card spot as they begin the second half with a three-game set against the Minnesota Twins, who have also played better in recent weeks.
The Twins are 26-23 since May 16, but their 36-49 overall record has them 11 games behind the first-place Chicago White Sox in the AL Central.
The A’s boast the best ERA in the AL at 3.38 even after trading Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Andrew Bailey during the offseason. Jarrod Parker and Tommy Milone have stabilized the rotation, and rookie Ryan Cook earned a spot in the All-Star Game after allowing runs in just two of his 37 appearances.
The latest pleasant surprise to the rotation, A.J. Griffin (0-0, 1.50 ERA), will take the hill today for the A’s.
Griffin has started his career with three no-decisions since being recalled from Triple-A Sacramento on June 24. He’s tossed six innings and allowed three hits or fewer in each of his three starts. Opponents are batting .127 (8-for-63) against Griffin during that span.
While Oakland’s rotation has been a pleasant surprise, Minnesota’s starters have combined for a 5.68 ERA, which ranks as the second worst in the majors. The Twins have just 30 quality starts in their first 85 games.
Francisco Liriano (3-7, 5.08 ERA) will try and change that today when he takes the ball for Minnesota. Liriano has been the subject of trade rumors in recent weeks, and his stock continues to rise. Since returning to the rotation in late May, he’s 3-2 with a 2.74 ERA over eight starts. Liriano tossed six scoreless innings against Oakland on May 30.
NOTES: The A’s have used 43 players this season, which is second most in the American League to Boston (44). ... Twins catcher Joe Mauer, who was the team’s lone All-Star representative, is tied for fourth in the AL in batting average (.326) and first in on-base percentage (.416).