Four spare thoughts from a soggy Sunday afternoon:
THEY NEEDED MORE: As Max Scherzer's pitch count rose and rose, as he stood in the hot sun for 20 minutes or more at a time, it felt like it was only a matter of time before Scherzer would be gone and the Twins could feast on the Tigers' weary bullpen. That's what made Kyle Gibson's subpar outing so disappointing -- all they needed was for him to keep the game close and keep the Twins' own tired pen from being called upon. He couldn't do it, and was knocked out after getting 14 outs, his shortest start since July 4. Worst of all were the two walks he issued after Victor Martinez's impressive tie-breaking single. Gibson had thrown almost 40 fewer pitches than Scherzer at one point, but gave the advantage back and actually didn't go as deep into the game as the Tiger starter. The battle with Martinez was a classic, though; eight pitches, with the DH spoiling five of them to stay alive. But the game was there for the Twins, had Gibson given them just one or two more outs. (By the way, on paper, the series went about as expected: The Twins lost to Detroit's inexperienced starters, then lost to Justin Verlander and Scherzer. That overlooks how winnable both of the losses were, though.)
LEAVING THEM ON: The score was 7-3 in the sixth when the Twins' problems with runners in scoring position struck again. A hit batter, a walk and Danny Santana's single loaded the bases with one out, but the Twins were coincidentally sending up two of their worst hitters in that situation. Brian Dozier, is 1-for-8 with the bases loaded; he hit a fly ball to left that was too shallow to advance any runners. Then came Joe Mauer, who somewhat strangely is 1-for-7 this season with the bases loaded and two outs. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus brought in left-hander Phil Coke to face Mauer, and the count got to 3-2 before Coke fooled the Twins' first baseman. Expecting something that would break toward the dirt, Mauer instead got a high fastball that seemed to rise as it neared the plate. Mauer swung and missed at the 95-mph pitch, and the Twins' best chance was gone.
FLY BALLS AN ADVENTURE: I know Twins fans were spoiled by the consistent excellence of Denard Span and Ben Revere in the outfield, and Torii Hunter before them. It seems like there was a spectacular play at least once a series, and that's a lot to expect of outfielders. But it seems as though the Twins have gone through about as bad a stretch of outfielding as I can remember lately, with dropped fly balls, a consistent inability to catch balls at the fence, and the occasional terrible decision. Oswaldo Arcia was guilty of the latter on Sunday, choosing to make an awkward slide about 10 feet from where Torii Hunter's line drive came down. The slide allowed the ball to bounce past him to the wall, and turned a one-run single into a three-run triple. He's 23 and still learning, just as Danny Santana is 23 and playing center field for the first time; both should improve, and both provide enough offense to make it worth having them out there. But whew, there are times, and way too many of them lately, when you feel for the pitchers.
IS IT OVER YET? I heard plenty of grumbling about home plate umpire Eric Cooper and his strike zone, but it wasn't the umpire who made Sunday's game last an interminable four hours. The pace was just excruciating, and I was wondering in the sixth and seventh innings -- already more than three hours into the game -- how many fans had nodded off in the 85-degree, humid weather. This is the sort of game that loses fans, that convinces young people used to instant entertainment, to look elsewhere. I commend the 23,983 who witnessed the longest nine-inning game in Twins history, especially the 7,000 or so who were there at the end.