The Oakland Athletics hope to successfully navigate some new obstacles when they put their eight-game winning streak on the line in a doubleheader Tuesday against the visiting Minnesota Twins.
Originally scheduled as a traditional three-day, three-game series, the A’s and Twins were forced to adjust when the visitors needed an extra day for clearance after having had two road games against the Los Angeles Angels postponed for COVID reasons over the weekend.
The Oakland-Minnesota series will go forward as a three-gamer, but the first two contests have been condensed into a Tuesday doubleheader of seven-inning affairs.
Presuming the three-game set goes on as now reconfigured, the Twins expect to be short-handed. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons and left fielder Kyle Garlick have been confirmed as having tested positive for COVID and are out indefinitely.
Simmons did not make the trip west with the team last week. The Twins lost 10-3 at Anaheim on Friday night, the sixth loss in their past seven games.
“There’s not one person in our group who is not frustrated,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said over the weekend. “We knew that with our vaccine effort going on just after we returned home for our first homestand, we were pretty close to getting where we needed to be. But obviously not close enough.”
The A’s have scheduled left-hander Jesus Luzardo to face Twins right-hander Matt Shoemaker in the afternoon opener. Neither team was ready on Monday to announce a Game 2 starter.
Oakland’s eight-game run has come after losing six straight and seven of eight to open the season.
The A’s demonstrated they can succeed with offense or with pitching during their streak. They averaged more than seven runs per game in five consecutive wins over Houston, Arizona and Detroit after the rocky start, then used overpowering pitching to shut down the Tigers on a total of just two runs over the final three games of their just-completed series.
Luzardo (0-1, 8.31) will attempt to continue the impressive run begun by fellow starters Frankie Montas, Cole Irvin and Chris Bassitt, but has yet to demonstrate that type of form this season. He’s been bombed for five runs in five or fewer innings twice in his first three starts, sandwiching 5 1/3 innings of two-run ball in Oakland’s first win of the season over the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 7.
The 23-year-old has never faced the Twins in his 21-game, three-year career. The A’s and Twins have not met since July 2019. Luzardo made his major-league debut two months later.
Shoemaker (1-0, 4.09) is plenty familiar with the A’s. The nine-year veteran pitched his first six seasons with the Angels in the AL West, leading to as many as five head-to-heads in a single season (2015).
The 34-year-old has recorded a 6-3 record and 4.03 in 16 career games (15 starts) against the A’s. Among current Oakland hitters, Mitch Moreland (5-for-12, .417) and Stephen Piscotty (5-for-10, .500) have each driven in seven runs against him.
The A’s already have two walk-off wins this season, both off the bat of newcomer Moreland.
“Definitely happy I was able to get the job done,” he said Sunday after his hard-hit grounder, ruled an error, scored Matt Olson from second base in the last of the ninth. “Just tried to compete at that spot, that was the biggest thing. Hope it gets through somewhere and was able to do that.”
–Field Level Media