Postgame: Carefully choosing when to use bench
- Blog Post by: Phil Miller
- August 16, 2013 - 12:13 AM
Some leftovers from the Twins' walk-off victory, and another Gatorade bath for a rookie:
-- Ron Gardenhire was talking before the game about how the absence of Jamey Carroll limits his ability to pinch-hit (or bench) Pedro Florimon, who is enduring an extended slump at the plate. It's not easy making moves when you have only one spare catcher and one spare infielder, he said. Just a couple of hours later, situations came up that demonstrated exactly what he meant.
The Twins trailed by a run in the seventh when Clete Thomas hit a two-out double into the gap. It might have appeared the perfect chance to pull Florimon and try to tie the game, but Gardenhire said the cost -- two of his three bench players -- was too high for the advantage gained.
He would have used either Chris Herrmann or Wilkin Ramirez to hit, then Doug Bernier to play short, and there was still two more innings to play. "A two-man move, no, not going to happen there," Gardenhire said. "We're still in the game there. We have time."
His next decision came in the eighth, after Justin Morneau singled home Joe Mauer with the tying run, then moved to second base on a walk. With one out, Gardenhire considered sending Bernier in to run for Morneau, giving him more speed to score on a single. "You have to make a decision on whether he might come back around [to hit]," Gardenhire said. Plus, using Bernier as a pinch-runner removes the Twins' only reserve infielder from the game, creating a big problem if there's an injury. "You've really got to pay attention to that stuff with three men [on the bench]. We have to pick our moments."
That moment came in the ninth, with the game tied. Trevor Plouffe singled to open the inning, and Gardenhire considered making an unusual request of Chris Colabello. "I actually asked him on the bench, 'Can you bunt?' And he said, 'Absolutely,' " Gardenhire recounted. "And I said, 'Well, you're not going to.' I think he was honest with me, he thinks he can, but I don't think he's up here to bunt. ... I thought he was going to get a game-winner. I really felt he was going to get a hit."
Instead, he worked Ramon Troncoco for a five-pitch walk, and Gardenhire asked Clete Thomas to bunt the runners over. He bunted, but the ball traveled only a few inches in front of the plate -- hit the bat twice, actually, as Thomas dropped it -- and catcher Josh Phegley threw Plouffe out at third.
That's when Gardenhire decided to pull the trigger. He summoned Herrmann to hit, and knowing that Bernier would have to play short if the game went to the 10th inning, send him in to run for Colabello. It proved to be the perfect moment, because Herrmann, who was 5-for-40 since July 26, laced a 1-1 sinker into right field, scoring Bernier with the winning run.
"It was good for Herm, he's been going through a little bit of a scuffle here lately," Gardenhire said. "These pinch-hit situations are not easy for veterans, and now you've got a young kid up there. He stepped up there, had a really good at-bat. Took a really good swing at the first one, fouled it off, but stayed on the ball. Then he got a sinker down an in, and rolled it through the hole."
-- The Twins didn't make a move after the game, and it's probably because they're waiting for paperwork from Major League Baseball clearing Ryan Doumit to return from the concussion disabled list. But the thought occurred to a few of us in the press box that perhaps Herrmann is the player being sent to Rochester to make room, and it would be cruel to give him the news after he wins a game.
We'll see on Friday. Herrmann said he's not thinking about his roster spot. "If they decide to send me to Triple-A, that's fine, I'll just have to wait for my next opportunity. I'm not stressing about that kind of stuff," he said. "I'm just glad I was here to help the team win."
-- Nice slide by Joe Mauer to score the tying run. Justin Morneau lined a sharp single to right in the eighth, and Avisail Garcia came up throwing. The play was a lot closer than I expected -- the ball actually beat Mauer home -- but he got his foot on the plate just ahead of Josh Phegley's sweep tag.
"The kid out there can throw, we know that, but fortunately it was hit to the side of him, not right at him. He threw a pellet in there," Gardenhire said. "Joe made a nice slide -- he really went to the only place he had. He went straight in with his feet. If he had tried to hook slide, [Phegley] might have got him. But he went straight in with his feet, the quickest route, and he was safe."
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