Chicago White Sox at Minnesota Twins (-105, 8.5)
The Minnesota Twins have risen from the ashes in the American League Central to pull just 3.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers in the division.
Minnesota wrapped August with an 8-2 record in its last 10 games heading into Tuesday’s Game 2 with the White Sox. Chicago’s current funk has also helped the Twins' surge. The ChiSox have plummeted in the standing after posting an 11-17 record last month.
The biggest force pushing the Twins to within striking distance of the division title has been the team’s pitching staff. After underachieving all summer, the Minny arms posted a collective 3.17 ERA last week and made up for the lack of offense. The Twins managed to score just 20 runs on .255 hitting.
"We're playing pretty good and trying to keep it going," catcher Joe Mauer told the media. "We're worried about us winning games instead of looking at the scoreboard."
Minnesota took Game 1 4-1 Monday night and has won 20 of the past 26 meeting with the White Sox at the Metrodome heading into Tuesday.
Kansas City Royals at Oakland Athletics (-160, 9)
When the cat’s away the mice will play.
The Kansas Royals are hoping this age-old adage proves true with manager Trey Hillman away from the team following the death of his father in-law. Hillman left Sunday and is expected to miss all three games with the A’s this week.
Bench coach and former Toronto Blue Jays skip John Gibbons has taken the reigns in Hillman’s absence. He took one on the chin Monday, losing 8-5 in Game 1 in Oakland. That loss was Kansas City’s 81st of the season and seventh in the past 10 games heading into Tuesday.
"I've got a good idea how (Hillman) does things and what he wants to do," Gibbons told reporters. "So I'll just run with that."
Perhaps Gibbons should try doing the opposite of his superior given that the Royals are on pace for another 100-loss season and have a tough schedule facing them in the final weeks of the season.
Going to the bump for Gibbons is struggling righty Brian Bannister. He’s been roughed up in his recent outings and has just one win in his nine starts since the All-Star break.