Minnesota now has a magic number of seven to capture the division crown and is closing in on home-field advantage for the entire AL Playoffs as well. Gardenhire’s squad trails New York by only one game for the league’s best record.
Playing at home could help the Twins overtake the Yanks in the standings. Minnesota is 19-4 at Target Field since July 21 and the club has compiled an impressive 48-24 record in Minneapolis for the season.
However, that wasn’t the case in Friday’s opener, as Jack Cust went 2-for-4 with a home run while Brett Anderson pitched into the seventh inning, helping the Athletics to a 3-1 win.
Anderson (6-6) gave up one run on four hits and a walk in 6 2/3 innings, and struck out five. With Anderson taking the win, Oakland starters have now gotten the decision in the team’s last 24 games (12-12).
“We went out there and gave him a couple runs, and he didn’t let up the lead,” Cust said of Anderson. “He’s one of the best left-handers in the league, and he went out there and shut down a good lineup.”
Rajai Davis batted 2-for-3 and drove in a run for the A’s, who snapped a two- game slide. Andrew Bailey tossed a scoreless ninth for his 25th save.
Nick Blackburn (9-10) took the loss after allowing three runs on eight hits and a walk in seven innings. Danny Valencia homered to provide the lone run for the AL Central-leading Twins, who had won five in a row and 11 of their last 12 overall.
Heading to the hill for the Twins today will be right-hander Kevin Slowey, who is 12-6 with a 4.24 earned run average. Slowey beat the Cleveland Indians on Sunday, as he allowed just two unearned runs in five innings. He also struck out five without walking a batter.
“I was able to make a couple pitches when I needed to, and I was fortunate to have some great plays made behind me,” Slowey said. “When they put five runs up early, you don’t have to be quite as fine.”
Slowey did not give up a hit and tossed seven scoreless innings to beat the A’s the last time he faced them and is an impressive 3-0 lifetime with a 1.38 ERA in four starts against them.
Oakland, meanwhile, will counter with left-hander Dallas Braden, who is 9-12 on the season with a 3.56 ERA. Braden lost his third straight start and fell for the fourth time in his last five outings on Sunday against Boston, which reached him for four runs in 5 2/3 innings.
Braden is winless in five starts against the Twins (0-1) and has pitched to a 3.38 ERA in those meetings.
Despite Friday’s loss, the Twins have had success this season when taking on the Athletics. Minnesota has won five of the seven clashes between the teams thus far in 2010 and swept a three-game set from Oakland at Target Field from August 13-15.