If won't be easy for the Twins to hide their jealousy this week. Over the next six days, they'll get a close-up look at two of the best young starting rotations in baseball, players who are getting outs now and are still early in their careers.
Jarrod Parker is the first example tonight, and he hasn't done much this season except get mentioned in the same sentence as Lefty Grove, perhaps the greatest pitcher in baseball history. Parker hasn't lost a game since May 22, and while the A's haven't always won his starts -- they're 16-12 when he pitches this season, and have blown three leads after he's left the game -- he's now gone 18 straight starts without taking a loss. That streak eclipsed Catfish Hunter's in his last outing, and he's only three away from Grove's club record, set with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1931.
Tomorrow comes Sonny Gray, the A's first-round pick in 2011 who has posted a 2.61 ERA in his first eight major-league appearances, and on Thursday it's A.J. Griffin, who has won 13 games including his last three in a row.
Over the weekend, the Rays will use Rookie of the Year candidate Chris Archer, then tough lefties Matt Moore and David Price. Yeah, there's some pitching on display at Target Field this week; the combined statistics of the six starters Minnesota will face totals a 3.46 ERA in nearly 800 innings, with a 57-35 record.
But the most amazing statistic may be this one: At 28, Price is the old man of this group. None of the other five starting pitchers is older than 25.
Both visitors need strong performances, too, as they remain locked into some great races for playoff spots. Oakland is two games ahead of Texas in the A.L. West, while Tampa Bay is holding on to the final wildcard spot, a game and a half ahead of Baltimore and Cleveland.
Of course, the Twins faced Jared Weaver last night and did OK, so maybe this week will be a confidence-builder.
Chris Parmelee is at first base in a big-league game for the first time since July, and slumping Josh Willingham will bat sixth for the first time since July 27, 2009, when he was with the Nationals. Willingham is batting .153 with two homers in 27 games since returning from knee surgery in August.
Here are tonight's lineups: