The Twins have fared well against the American League West this season, but they're facing the division-leading A's for the first time this season.
But while Minnesota won't be playing postseason baseball, it will try to disrupt Oakland's quest for a division title for a second straight game as Twins right-hander Mike Pelfrey opposes Sonny Gray in Wednesday night's middle game at Target Field.
"It's very important," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, whose club is 19-8 vs. AL West opponents following Tuesday night's 4-3 win. "They have a lot riding and we know that. If we can hurt their feelings a little bit. We have a lot of young kids in our lineup that are trying to prove their weight around here. So there's a lot at stake for both teams. Us trying to prove we can get better and them in the pennant race."
Pelfrey is 5-11 with a 4.97 ERA through 26 starts. He struggled last Friday against the Blue Jays, allowing six runs (five earned) on six hits and two walks over six innings after going 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA in six August starts. What really hurt him was a five-run third inning.
"I felt like it was kind of a wasted day," Pelfrey said. "I thought my stuff was good, but I didn't make enough quality pitches in the third inning and they kicked my butt. I guess you tip your cap, because I went out there and gave it everything I have and they beat me. But that third inning can't happen and ended up being the ballgame."
Gray had a better outing, but also took a loss in his last start. He matched a career high with eight innings and allowed just three runs (two earned) against the Astros. He also had seven strikeouts with just one walk. It was his first career home loss.
As part of Major League Baseball's 9/11 tribute, each team will wear an American flag patch embroidered on the side of their caps while special lineup cards and base jewels will also be used during Wednesday's games.
The Twins will hold a moment of silence before the first pitch and the "We Shall Not Forget" MLB silhouetted batter ribbon will be displayed at Target Field.
Twins: Plouffe hitting his stride
Third baseman Trevor Plouffe has 15 hits in September and a .396 (15-for-38) batting average. He credits hitting coach Tom Brunansky for helping in the turnaround.
"I'm just up there trying to have good at-bats," Plouffe said. "Bruno and I have been working hard. I struggled to start the second half, but I'm not just going to lay it down. I'm going to continue to work the whole season."
Gardenhire said he's noticed a difference with Plouffe at the plate, especially since the club's recent road trip against the Rangers and Astros.
"He's confident right now," Gardenhire said. "He's seeing the ball well and he's also made some good plays defensively. So, he's been playing well for us and it started on the road."
Athletics: Reddick working back slowly
Outfielder Josh Reddick is back in an A's uniform, but it might be awhile until he sees significant playing time.
Reddick was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right wrist on Aug. 26, but was activated before Tuesday night's series opener and joined the team in Minnesota. He took a full round of batting practice before the game.
"He's not an option for me swinging the bat," manager Bob Melvin said of Reddick's availability on Tuesday. "Potentially, we could use him in the outfield or pinch-running, something like that, but I would stay away from using him at the plate unless something crazy happened."
Reddick was hitting .264 with five homers and nine RBIs in the 15 games before his injury, but since he suffered a similar injury back in May, he doesn't want to rush back.
"I don't think it'll be 100 percent until the season comes to an end and we can rest it up," Reddick said. "Right now it's the first day of full batting practice and I'm just looking to see how it feels after that. If there's no pain then it's a good sign, but if I feel anything, I'm going to let somebody know. I'm not going to try to grind through it, especially with the way this team's been playing."
• Twins rookie catcher Josmil Pinto has 13 hits in 26 at-bats since being called up from Triple-A Rochester on Aug. 31, including five doubles and a homer.
• Right-handed reliever Dan Otero is expected to miss Thursday's series finale against the Twins and Friday's opener at Texas due to the birth of his child.
Kathleen Gier is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.