Not only can the bullpen keep the deficit small if the Twins are losing, last night they had a chance to actually hold a lead for probably the first time all series but failed there as well. Glen Perkins allowed 3 runs on 5 hits through 5 and 1/3 innings pitched. He came into the 6th with 83 total pitches and struck out the first batter he faced. The next batter reached on a 4-pitch walk and Perkins was yanked immediately. Jesse Crain came in and gave up a two-run homer to bring the White Sox within 1 of tying the Twins.
No big deal, just bring in the best reliever (Matt Guerrier) in the bullpen to hold things down in the 7th, right? Right, it was the logical choice. But for whatever reason, Matty G just didn’t have it yesterday. He gave up a double followed by a single, but a run didn’t score until the next batter, who grounded out. Apparently the Twins were content with “conceding the run” just to get the force out at second. Conceding runs, for the Twins, might be the worst idea in the history of ideas. The team, overall, will not score 6-7 runs per game like the White Sox or Yankees. No, the team needs to manufacture runs and depends on good pitching and a strong defense to win ballgames. So why give up a run when you can still get the out at home? To protect Joe Mauer from a collision? I hope not because it’s generally considered part of the game for catchers to be able to take a hard hit from a charging baserunner. Anyway, Guerrier ended up recording just the one out and gave up 4 hits, 3 runs, he had 2 walks and gave up a homer.
Brian Bass was asked to come in with the bases loaded and just one out. I think it was a little before this point in the game that I took an afternoon nap, and thankfully, because I would’ve actually turned off the TV to avoid seeing what damage the Sox might possibly do to poor BB. But, he got the second out with a strikeout and then got a long, almost-homer fly ball for the final out of the inning.
Ok, the team’s only down by 2 and they have the 7-8-9 hitters coming up in the 8th, leaving the top of the order to get things going in the 9th. Let me just skip to that final, horrific inning. Carlos Gomez comes up to the plate, currently at 0-3 with a walk and a 9-game hitting streak that’s on the line. He smokes a double to the left field gap, a really solid hit to extend his streak to 10 games. Alright, on to Alexi Casilla, currently 0-4 in the game and a 10-game hitting streak on the line himself. First pitch he sees, he doinks it into short left field, advancing Gomez to third. Runners on the corners, nobody out, groundout machine Joe Mauer comes to the plate. This isn’t a bash, but we all know Joe grounds into his fair share of double plays. Baseball logic would say to send Casilla, with his 13-1 SB/CS ratio in his ML career, to second base to take the DP out of the equation. Not to mention that Chicago’s catcher (it wasn’t A.J. Pierzynski) had thrown out just one runner all year, on 19 attempts. I honestly expected Alexi to take off on the first pitch. No, he stays put. Ok, they want him to get a read on the pitcher and time everything correctly, they’ll send him on the second or third pitch. I’m just gonna cut to the chase and say that I’m still waiting for him to be sent, because the fact that through Mauer’s 6-pitch at-bat, Casilla never even sniffed a stolen base, changed the outcome of the game as far as I’m concerned. Mauer grounds into a double play, Gomez has to stay put at third, Justin Morneau grounds out on the first pitch he sees to end the game. What. The. Heck. I need to give an advanced warning that it’s entirely possible Casilla was given the green light and never took it, or he missed a sign or it’s somehow his fault he didn’t steal. But, as a baseball player for 3 years myself, I know that you pretty much are told by the coaches when to steal. Why wasn’t Casilla sent? It was a near guarantee he’d be safe, especially since the Sox might’ve been hesitant to throw to second with speedy Gomez just 90 feet away from home. The whole situation still ruffles my non-existent feathers.
Ron Gardenhire couldn’t change anything with how Guerrier performed; the lead should’ve never been given back to the Sox. However, when it came time to manage the game and to “manufacture” a run by possibly stealing or even a hit-and-run, he failed. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, even though his win percentage is pretty good for a manager, I am not a believer in him anymore. Delmon Young hits his first homer over the weekend and he wasn’t in the lineup, so we could see Craig Monroe go 0-4 with 2 strikeouts. Awesome.
The offense was actually decent; Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, and Jason Kubel combined to go 6-11 with 3 doubles, 5 RBI, 2 walks, and 3 runs scored. Ironically, Morneau and Gomez each hit their 11th doubles of the year in the game. Gomez is second on the team in extra-base hits, with 19, behind Morneau with 23. Mauer is third with 17 while Young rounds out the top 4 with 16.
The team travels to Cleveland now for a 3-game set. Keep in mind that, even with this 4-game meltdown, the team’s just 2 games under .500. I think most fans predicted a .500 finish, or a little bit below, so we should be realistic with our expectations.