Doug Stone

Stone has been a journalist for print and broadcast, a U.S. Senate press secretary, a college relations director, a journalism teacher and a freelance writer and consultant. He's currently a communications and media consultant and a freelance writer. Read more about Doug Stone.

The bullpen had lots of help losing

Posted by: Doug Stone Updated: May 28, 2011 - 12:43 AM
Yes, the Twins blew another late-inning lead against the Angels on Friday night (May 27). And yes, an incredibly inept bullpen was a major reason. But the bullpen had a lot of help as the Twins lost their 14th home game this year, against only 5 wins. After last year’s magical season—the opening of Target Field, a great home record, another Central Division title—this season is an unmitigated disaster. And it keeps getting worse.
 
Friday’s game began to unravel even as the Twins were building a 5-0 lead. In the fifth inning, Jason Kubel, who had just driven in two runs, failed to get back to second on a fly ball to right. Not only did he get doubled off, but his base running mistake cost the Twins at least one run because Alexi Casilla had tagged up and would have scored from third. Who knows how many more runs might have scored if Kubel had been heads up. The Twins eventually lost by one run, 6-5.
 
The rest of the damage was done in the 8th and 9th:
 
Relief pitch Alex Burnett failed to cover first in time on a grounder that Justin Morneau bobbled.
 
Then he walked a batter.
 
Dusty Hughes, another Twins pitcher, promptly gave up a three-run homer.
 
Jim Hoey couldn’t get anyone out.
 
Michael Cuddyer, playing second base, tried to backhand a hit up the middle and couldn’t make what seemed like a fairly routine play.
 
Delmon Young, whose only defensive attribute is a pretty good arm, failed to hit the cutoff man, allowing a runner to go to second. If held at first, the player might have been doubled up later in the inning.
 
In the bottom of the 8th, the Twins failed to get Danny Valencia home from second with only one out.
 
In the top of the 9th, the Angels center fielder Peter Bourjos hit a leadoff triple and later scored the winning run. He also made a spectacular catch earlier of a Jim Thome fly ball, robbing the Twins' hitter of a homerun.
 
And in the bottom of the 9th, with the game on the line, Kubel flew out and Morneau struck out. Cuddyer and Trevor Plouffe hit singles to keep the game alive. Here comes Delmon Young, 0 for 4 on the night, with a chance to redeem himself. With a full-count, he weakly flew out to right center. And so goes yet another feeble effort in which the once high-flying Twins managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
 
The Twins wasted an excellent pitching effort by starter Scott Baker.
 
The Twins used to hit well. But they have a lot of guys hitting in the low .200s and worse.
 
They used to play good defense, but they continually mishandle routine plays like bobbling balls or failing to cover a base or failing to hit the cutoff man.
 
They used to be clutch hitters, but now even their best players often fail to get a hit in a crucial at-bat.
 
They used to be able to hold a lead, but with this bullpen, the 8th and 9th innings have been hard to watch.
 
And they used to protect home field. Now they are horrendous at home.
 
A couple weeks ago, I was sitting at Target Field on a cold, rainy Saturday afternoon watching a fairly good Twins effort, thinking this is the kind of game that perhaps will be the spark that turns the season around. They gave up a 3-2 lead late in that game. We had to leave early to go to a graduation party. By the time we reached the party, the Twins had lost big in extra innings.
 
I spend several hundred dollars for four tickets for five games. Last season this seemed like a good investment: new field, exciting team, great fan experience. But many more games like Friday’s (which I watched on television, thankfully) or the ones I’ve been watching lately, I may have to reconsider. And so will a lot of other fans.
 
And that’s the problem that Twins management has to be worried about. Yes, they’re been an inordinate number of injuries. But the guys on the field aren’t doing the job and the guys called up from the minors aren’t that good. And the pitching out of the bullpen is dreadful. And then we have the spectacle of Kevin Slowey, making more than $2 million a year, saying he doesn’t want to be a reliever anymore.
 
These are not the Twins we have known and loved all these years. Something has to be done to bring them out of their stupor.
 
It’s a sad state of affairs in the Minnesota sports world when the only team with a chance to win games is the Lynx. I watched them the other day and they not only didn’t blow a lead, but came from behind to win. And they played with some enthusiasm.
 
 
 
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