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buzzsaw

Playoffs on the horizon???

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This from ESPN:

By Mark Simon, ESPN Research

Although the pitching matchups (at least the first two days) don't exactly scream out "playoff preview," this week's Twins-A's series could foreshadow a postseason affair. Minnesota and Oakland are two of the hottest teams in baseball, with Minnesota particularly scalding after three straight wins against the Tigers.

The Twins look like a team primed for September, although it has been a bit of a patchwork effort because of injuries to Francisco Liriano and Brad Radke. Liriano could return Wednesday, which will be a major news story worthy of further breakdown.

The A's have been getting an MVP-like performance from Frank Thomas, who has started September in a similar fashion to Philadelphia's Ryan Howard. Not many seem to fear Oakland, but perhaps the A's can give future opponents a taste in this series of why they could be a scary foe.

A'S AT TWINS: PITCHING PREVIEW

Monday: Joe Blanton (15-10) vs. Carlos Silva (8-13)

What do Randy Johnson and Joe Blanton have in common? Not much, except they're the AL's two 15-game winners with ERAs above 4.50. Opponents are hitting .303 against Blanton this season (.313 on the road), but he has gotten the necessary run support to win games. Since the All-Star break, he's 7-2 with a 4.16 ERA in 10 starts and has allowed only four home runs. Silva is 0-4 with a 6.06 ERA in his past six starts. But he was headed in the right direction in his Sept. 6 start against Tampa Bay -- pitching six innings of one-hit ball -- until a stomachache ended his night.

Tuesday: Matt Guerrier (0-0, 3.04) vs. Kirk Saarloos (7-7, 4.68)

With just 38 strikeouts in 109 2/3 innings, Saarloos ranks among the AL's least likely pitchers to strike someone out. However, he has won four of his last five decisions. Guerrier makes his first start after 33 relief efforts and will be limited to 65 pitches by Ron Gardenhire. Lefties have toasted Guerrier (.345 BAA), but his 2.57 ERA in 12 games after the break persuaded the Twins to give him a look.

Wednesday: TBA vs. Dan Haren (13-11)

This could be Francisco Liriano's first start since Aug. 7, although the most recent Twins game notes did not indicate that was definite. Liriano struck out five of the seven Oakland hitters he faced in a relief stint against them earlier this season. Remember, one of the big keys to his early-season success was a .137 batting average against with runners in scoring position. He has a tough opponent in Haren, who has won seven of his last nine decisions and is trying to match his 2005 win total of 14. Haren's struggles have come with runners in scoring position, but he has been getting leadoff men out at a great rate (.170 BA from leadoff men in an inning).

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

• The Twins are 36-20 since the All-Star break, but the Athletics are even better, posting a 37-17 mark. Minnesota's success comes in the form of a 58-26 mark after bottoming out at 25-33. Oakland has gone 59-31 after starting 23-29.

• Frank Thomas has homered in a career-best five straight games, the first time he has done that since hitting homers in five straight games twice in 1994. He has seven home runs in nine September games. Only once before (1995) has Thomas hit more than seven total home runs in September and October.

• Neither team's ace will pitch in this series, and both teams are happy about not facing the best the other has to offer. Barry Zito is 3-0 against Minnesota since 2005 and has allowed just two runs in 21 1/3 innings against the Twins. Johan Santana has a 1.13 ERA against the A's in three starts over the past two seasons and has limited them to just 10 hits in 83 at-bats.

ELIAS SAYS

• Johan Santana's victory over the Tigers on Sunday raised his record to 31-2 during August, September and October the past four seasons. Santana has won his past 15 decisions at the Metrodome. Since Frank Viola won 19 straight regular-season decisions there from 1987 to 1988, only four other pitchers have posted home winning streaks of at least 15 games: Tommy Greene (15, 1991-94), Randy Johnson (16, 1995-97), Kenny Rogers (19, 1997-2000) and Barry Zito (16, 2001-02).

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I sure hope so! Actually I'll take getting to the play-offs period. If it happens, hopefully we get someone other that NY in the first round again.

How 'bout Joe Nathan tonight? He survives two innings of bases loaded with only 1 run given up.

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However, he was the reason the bases were loaded the second time. 3 walks is not what you want from a closer. But he is still the best in the game and I would prefer him to have his poor outing while we are up by 6 runs.

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The Twins need to keep the peddle to the floor, not like a couple years back when they went into Detroit, got soft and smelled up the first round of the playoffs.

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