One of those young arms, righty Jarrod Parker, will take the hill Sunday as his A's go for a series sweep in Minnesota. He is one of the best arms in what is the Majors' top rotation: Oakland starters' 3.70 ERA and 52 home runs allowed are the both best in the big leagues.
Parker (5-4, 2.86 ERA) has been at the center of all of that success, and will make his 16th start of the year Sunday. He's a standout among American League rookie hurlers, posting the sixth-most strikeouts (67) and wins (5) among first-year starters. His .216 opponents' batting average is the lowest among Major League rookies with 70 or more innings pitched. Parker's success has been of historic proportions: he is the only starting pitcher since 1918 to allow one run or fewer in 10 of his first 15 career games.
He'll be opposed by Twins lefty Brian Duensing, who is making just his fourth start of 2012 after finishing in the American League's top five in losses (14) in 2011. After two trying outings to start his year (seven runs in seven innings combined), Duensing seemed to settle down a bit against the Tigers on July 4. But after yielding just two runs in 4 1/3 innings against Detroit, an Alex Avila line drive found the 29-year-old's ankle, knocking him out of the game.
The damage was limited, as the resulting injury was diagnosed as a bruised ankle and deemed no hindrance to a Sunday start. That was good news for Duensing, who thought he was finally finding his groove prior to the unfortunate liner.
"I was actually feeling pretty good," Duensing said of the start. "Most of my misses were down, which is one of the big adjustments I wanted to make, and I thought I did a good job of mixing it up."
He'll certainly have to do that Sunday, as the A's have lit up Minnesota pitching to the tune of 15 runs and 20 hits in the series' first two games. That, combined with the presence of the stingy Parker on the hill, will require Duensing to be at his best if Minnesota is to salvage a game this series.
A's: Crisp likely out for finale
A's outfielder Coco Crisp did not play on Saturday after experiencing soreness in his left shoulder throughout Friday night's game. Manager Bob Melvin said before Saturday's game that he doesn't expect Crisp to play for the remainder of the series, opting instead to take caution with his 32-year-old veteran, as well as take advantage of an off-day Monday before re-evaluating.
Crisp is hitting .232 in 61 games this year and has stolen 16 bases. Melvin said Crisp may be available as a pinch-runner.
Twins: Willingham wearing out former team
The Twins' Josh Willingham may have played in 136 games with the A's in 2011, but he's certainly not taking it easy on his former squad this year. In fact, Willingham has taken the exact opposite approach and demolished Oakland pitching in five games this season. Willingham hit his 22nd home run as one of two hits in Saturday's loss, a solid follow-up to a two-homer showing in the series opener. In five games against the A's in 2012, Willingham is hitting .421 (8-for-19) with five home runs and 24 total bases.
Yoenis Cespedes may still be nursing a sprained left thumb, but you wouldn't know it from his recent production. Cespedes is still restricted to designated hitter, but has torn up Twins pitching this series, going 4-for-9, including a double and homer in Saturday's win.
The Twins' Justin Morneau and Trevor Plouffe both extended their season-best hitting streaks to 12 games with knocks in Saturday's loss. Plouffe's streak is the longest of his career.