Being able to sit one game below .500 after the All-Star break and still be just .5 game in the divisional race is not something we see often, but that’s the case for the Minnesota Twins and the AL Central. As Minnesota embarks on a second half that looks to be a battle between them and the Guardians for the division, they will start in Oakland with a series against the A’s. We’ll preview the game before going over which team I’ll be backing on the run line.
The first half of the season could not have gone much worse for the Oakland A’s. Not only are they 25-67, but it was decided that the team will move out of California. While the fans continue their push for the team to be sold, the A’s will look to turn things around in the second half and build for the future. While on the topic of the future, the A’s have called up their #1 and #3 prospects, Tyler Soderstrom and Zach Gelof, to make their debuts tonight.
Both Soderstrom and Gelof are a nice glimpse into the youth movement that Oakland has been trying to cultivate. As the two young guns look to provide a spark to the offense, the A’s will send a veteran to the mound tonight in Paul Blackburn. The 29-year-old has made seven starts this season and thrown 37 innings while pitching to a 4.86 ERA.
Tonight, Blackburn squares off with a Twins team that went into the break on a losing note, as they were swept in a three-game set by the Orioles. A mix of injuries and failure to meet expectations was the story of their offense in the first half, while their pitching staff kept them afloat for the most part. After ranking 22nd in OPS prior to the break, the Twins will need guys like Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton to turn it on in the second half if they want to see improvement.
While the offense was a mess during the first half, the Twins' pitching staff was 3rd in the league in ERA and 1st in WHIP. Getting the ball for them tonight will be right-hander Kenta Maeda, who is set to make his 8th start. In 33 innings, Maeda has put up a 5.18 ERA with 35 strikeouts and eight walks.
Over their past ten home games, the Oakland A’s were the second most profitable run-line team in the league, and with their run line of (+1.5) priced at (+108), I’ll be backing them for my play tonight. For the first time all season, there will be a real spark in the A’s lineup with the two young bats, and with one of their more trusted arms on the mound tonight who is expected to have a positive regression, I think this is an excellent spot to target them.
Entering tonight, Paul Blackburn is in the 86th percentile in hard-hit percentage, 60th percentile in expected slugging percentage, and 57th percentile in xERA/xwOBA. Not only is Blackburn expected to put up better numbers in the second half, but tonight he’ll take on a Twins lineup that hit .225 and ranked 26th in OPS and wRC+ against right-handed pitching on the road over the last month.
Kenta Maeda finds himself in the 5th percentile in hard hit percentage, the 48th percentile in expected batting average, and the 44th percentile in expected slugging percentage. Overall, I think Oakland’s lineup can make some noise off the right-hander, especially with the two young bats in the lineup.
Oakland A’s (+1.5)(+108)