What started out so poorly for Jarrod Parker has since turned into his second consecutive impressive Major League season.
An April that could not have been much worse -- ending with a 7.36 ERA and 16 walks to 18 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings -- was forgotten by the end of May.
And after he went undefeated in six June starts, holding opposing teams to a 2.08 ERA, Parker was well on his way.
The A's, having won six of eight in the season's final month, will hope to ride Parker's impressive season a little bit longer as the 24-year-old sophomore makes his 29th start of the year Tuesday when Oakland opens a three-game series in Minnesota.
"I saw that last year," Brandon Moss said of Parker's success. "Down the stretch, there was nobody that pitched better than him. Start-in, start-out, you knew what you were going to get. He was going to throw strikes, he wasn't going to walk people, he was going to put the ball in play, and I think that's what was more surprising early in the year, those struggles he was having. Because that's not him. Once he got comfortable, he's been the same guy. That's who he is. He is an ace."
After ending their first divisional season against the Astros with a 15-4 mark, the A's have six games left against the Twins and 12 games left against American League West foes.
Take care of the Twins starting Tuesday, and the first-place A's could be well on their way to another division title.
Part of the A's success of late has come via the bullpen, which has allowed just seven runs in its past 10 games after allowing 28 runs over its previous 10.
Opening Day starter Brett Anderson appears to be getting more comfortable throwing extended outings out of relief, and Dan Otero has stepped up in his first season with the club.
The Twins ended their Target Field losing streak at 10 games Monday against the Angels but have still dropped 12 of their last 14 home games.
On the mound for Minnesota is Liam Hendriks, the 24-year-old righty who is trying to prove himself as a viable option out of the bullpen at the Major League level. Hendricks has posted impressive numbers at the Triple-A level but has yet to find consistent success with the Twins, albeit in a limited role.
The latest example of that came in his most recent start, against the Astros, when he gave up five runs (three earned) in 4 1/3 innings.
"It was just embarrassing," Hendriks said. "I got behind guys. I left balls up. Once I was ahead, I was fine. I just wasn't ahead very often, and they made me pay for it. I got lackadaisical and just wasn't myself. I need to get back to getting ahead early and keeping the ball down."
A's: Donaldson rests sore quad
Josh Donaldson was given Sunday off to rest his right quad after straining it in Saturday's game against the Astros. With Monday's off-day, Donaldson essentially had a two-day rest period to get into form for the series in Minneapolis.
The A's don't seem too concerned about their power-hitting third baseman, who has missed just three of the team's 141 games this season.
"He's a true grinder," manager Bob Melvin said.
Twins: Diamond to start Thursday
Left-hander Scott Diamond will return to the Twins rotation Thursday as Minnesota goes with a six-man rotation for the remainder of the season, manager Ron Gardenhire said.
"He did fine," Gardenhire said. "I watched some games. His location was better, and his breaking ball was a little sharper. But what he did down there, it has to translate up here, or else it doesn't mean anything. He can't get behind the count and not finish his pitches off."
• Alex Presley is hitting .343 (12-for-35) with two doubles, a home run and five RBIs since the Twins acquired him from the Pirates in exchange for Justin Morneau on Aug. 31.
• Otero is expected to be with his wife for the birth of their child Tuesday and will be unavailable for the A's. He is expected to return Wednesday.
• The Twins are 18-8 against the AL West this season.