Wednesday is the middle game of a three-game set between the Minnesota Twins and Oakland Athletics from the Oakland Coliseum. In the first game of the series, the A’s won in an 8-6 game that saw both starting pitchers — Jake Odorizzi and Daniel Mengden — have pretty mediocre starts. The game featured six home runs, three from each team. Every player in the game finished with a hit except for Nelson Cruz, CJ Cron, and Khris Davis. Both teams are currently in a playoff spot, with the Twins leading the AL Central at 53-31. The A’s currently hold the last Wild Card spot as well at 47-39.
This game today features a sneaky good pitching matchup between a couple of veterans having great seasons. For the Twins, Kyle Gibson will get the ball for his 16th start of the season. So far, he is 8-4 with a 4.21 ERA, and even more impressive, a 3.61 xFIP.
Gibson has been terrific for the Twins this season. The only problem is that he doesn’t give Minnesota super long starts most of the time. Occasionally, he will go six to seven innings. But for the most part, he will go out and give the Twins five innings of terrific work. Eight times out of his 16 starts, he has gone at least five innings and given up three or fewer earned runs.
Gibson has watched his strikeout numbers be higher than they have been in his career, and the reason for that is his terrific offspeed pitches. He has thrown his fastball less this season and has thrown his sinker, slider, curve, and changeup much more this season. And with that quantity, also comes quality. Fangraphs ranks three of those four, excluding the curveball, well above league average on the pitch info values chart.
For the Athletics, Mike Fiers will take the hill for his 19th start of the season. Fiers is arguably having the best season of his entire career in 2019 and currently sits at 8-3 with a 4.01 ERA. Speaking of his record, Fiers impressively hasn’t taken a loss since May 1 against Boston. Since that loss, Fiers has made 10 starts. And in those 10, he has tossed a quality start (six innings, three earned runs or less) in NINE (!!) of those games. The one game he didn’t? He went five innings and only gave up one run. This might be the best run of Fiers’ entire career, and it is coming off the back of his previous best season in 2018.
Among a list of other things, one of the reasons for Fiers’ great run is his improved cutter. In 2017, it was one of the worst pitches in the entire league. He threw it a little more than 9 percent of the time, and Fangraphs had it ranked at -11 (!), a chart where 0 is league average. Since then, he has thrown it more, and it is now an above average pitch.
It is hard to pick against one of the best teams in the league, but the Twins have lost four of their lost five, while the A’s have won six of seven. Mike Fiers is on a crazy good run, and I’m not going to be the one to get in the way of that. Take the A’s.
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