Postgame: Dozier's OK, but Fien's in a slump
- Blog Post by: Phil Miller
- August 17, 2013 - 11:15 PM
A handful of remainders from the Twins' 8-5 loss:
-- Brian Dozier landed hard as he dove for a foul popup in the ninth inning, and he grabbed his rib cage as he rolled on the ground. He walked back to his position while trying to stretch his shoulder, and after the game revealed that he had lost the feeling in his shoulder for a moment after the play. "Must have hit a nerve or something," he said, but it's happened before, and the feeling returned quickly. He's fine, he said.
He and his teammates weren't so fine at the plate for the first half-hour or so of Saturday's game, though. The shadows on the field at 6 p.m., before the lights could take effect, made hitting difficult, especially against someone who throws as hard as Sox starter Chris Sale.
"At first, it was like hitting in a dark room," he said. "The first three innings, you couldn't even see the ball."
-- Not seeing the ball happened a lot on Saturday; Clete Thomas couldn't see Alexei Ramirez' first-inning popup, which fell for a double. And in the eighth, Caleb Thielbar seemingly ended the inning by getting Adam Dunn to loft a routine fly ball to left field. But against the blue-grey twilight, Willingham couldn't see the ball, and it fell for a run-scoring double. "If you're on the field level, you could [tell] -- the ball went up and disappeared," Ron Gardenhire said. "As soon as it was hit, we knew we were in trouble."
"Never saw the ball," Willingham said with a shrug.
-- The Twins had rallied in the seventh inning or later against Chicago's bullpen three times in the last eight days, and they appeared ready to pounce again Saturday with two quick runs in the eighth inning. That turned Chicago's 6-3 lead into a one-run game. But Alejandro De Aza bashed a two-run homer in the ninth to spoil any chance of the Twins pulling off another walk-off win.
-- Speaking of which: Do the Twins have reason to worry about Casey Fien? After two-month stretch beginning in late May in which he gave up only two runs in 28 1/3 innings and earned the eighth-inning setup role, Fien has allowed runs in each of his last three appearances. Worse, he's giving up home runs, four of them in his last 2 2/3 innings, matching the four he gave up in the season's first four months.
Saturday's mistake was a 3-2 cutter that Alejandro De Aza blasted into the right-field seats, a two-run shot that all but ended the Twins' hopes of a comeback.
"That was just a cutter. He tried to come in on his hands, and he just left it over the middle of the plate," manager Ron Gardenhire said of Fien, whose ERA has inflated from 2.61 to 3.71 in his last three appearances. "He'd been down in the zone, hadn't been missing his spots very much. But the last couple of times, he's struggled. He's missing out over the plate."
Fien has been used in 57 games, and Gardenhire has been fretting about overworking his bullpen. But Fien pitched in 68 games between Triple-A and the majors last year, and pitched 81 innings; he's at 51 this year. It's possible he might get a couple of days off, in hopes he can regain the consistency that was so impressive this season.
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