Series Preview in Blog: Oakland Athletics (Round 2)

This post is also published at Stick and Ball Guy’s site. Stop by and check out what SBG Nation has to say.

Minnesota Twins (45-43) vs. Oakland Athletics (44-44)

Both of these teams are right around .500, and in that spirit the Twins have been alternating winning and losing nicely, going 12-12 in their last 24, and 5-6 in their last 11. In the week before the All-Star break, Oakland stumbled a bit, falling back to .500 with a 2-5 record in series losses to Toronto and Seattle at home. Going back a bit further, the A’s went 5-12 going into the break. The A’s are currently in third place in the AL West, 9 games back of the Angels. They bring a 21-21 road record into this series. The Twins were 22-20 at home in the first half with some tough opponents coming up on this 10-game homestand. The A’s will be followed by the Tigers and the Angels at the Metrodome.

Despite the A’s well-documented tendency to start slow and come on strong in the second half, there are still reasons to think that this team isn’t equipped to make a similar surge this year. For gnasing of teeth in list form, here’s ten things that are bothering Oakland fans.

On the other side of the spectrum, one of everyone’s fondest memories of baseball probably involve going to games as a youngster. If you’re really lucky you can have your first ever game (and first bench-clearing brawl) immortalized in photo essay form just in case you don’t remember it very well.

The A’s haven’t announced their starting pitchers for this series anywhere that I looked, so all I can tell you is that Chad Gaudin will start against Scott Baker tonight. Gaudin has posted a very respectable 2.88 ERA thus far this season, but has been walking a lot of batters (5.0 BB/9 over his last 8 starts). That was the theme in his previous start against the Twins as well, when he walked 5 batters in 5 innings, but only allowed 2 runs to pick up the win. The walks are certainly a worrying trend, but perhaps we should be more worried about the power of Ryan at Catfish Stew to influence the performance of A’s pitchers through his posts. If that trend continues, expect Gaudin to have pinpoint control and a career high in strikeouts tonight.

The probable starters for this series are still in flux due to the number of injuries affecting the A’s pitching staff. Rich Harden made his first start since April in the week before the break, going 2.2 IP while allowing 4 runs. His ability to give the A’s consistent innings will go a long way toward clearing up the starting rotation for the second half. Closer Huston Street has also been on the DL since May, but he is expected to replace the glass of Syrah with a baseball sometime in the second half. (More on Street’s interest in wine here)

Finally, your first ballgame is great, but can it compare to a dancing mascot?

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