Few things in a baseball game are more disheartening then giving back a lead right after getting one. Even on a decent offensive team, runs are precious and leads are a thing to cherish. You want pitchers to put up zeroes in every inning, but there does seem to be a certain emotional lift to a shutdown inning right after a big inning of your own -- or a letdown if the opposite occurs.
Twins pitcher Ricky Nolasco has been on the wrong end of those innings a lot, it feels like -- so much so, that we've decided to go back, start-by-start, to see if it really is the case or if it just feels that way because of a few poorly timed meltdowns. As it turns out, it's happened quite often:
March 31, Nolasco's debut: White Sox score 2 in the bottom of the second for a 2-0 lead. The Twins rally with 2 in the top of the third, and Nolasco gives them right back with 2 in the bottom of the third. Twins lose 5-3.
April 6, his next start: Twins score 2 in the top of the second; Cleveland gets 2 in the bottom of the second. Twins score 3 in the top of the third and another 1 in the top of the fourth; Nolasco gives up 2 in the bottom of the fourth. Nolasco gets a no-decision, but the Twins manage to win 10-7.
April 24: Twins score 3 in the top of the first and 1 in the top of the second. Nolasco gives up 3 to Tampa Bay in the bottom of the second. Twins get 4 more in the fifth and one more in the sixth; Nolasco gives up one in the sixth and two in the seventh. The Twins escape again with a 9-7 win.
May 7: Twins get 1 in the top of the third to take a 1-0 lead; Nolasco gives up two in the bottom of the third. Though he has a decent outing (6 IP, 3 ER), the Twins lose 4-3 to Cleveland.
May 18: Twins score 2 in the bottom of the third to take a 2-0 lead on Seattle. Nolasco gives up 1 in the fourth and 2 in the fifth. He leaves trailing 3-2 and the Twins lose 6-2.
May 25: Twins score 1 in the top of the third to pull within 2-1 of the Giants. Nolasco gives up a run in the bottom of the third. Twins end up losing 8-1.
June 4: Twins score 3 in the bottom of the fourth and 1 in the fifth for a 4-1 lead on Milwaukee. Nolasco gets through the sixth but gives up three in the seventh for a 4-4 tie. The Twins still win 6-4.
June 9: Twins score 2 in the top of the first at Toronto; Nolasco gives up three in the bottom of the first. Twins lose 5-4.
Yesterday: Twins score three in the top of the sixth to take a 3-2 lead. Nolasco allows a run in the bottom of the sixth and leaves with the bases loaded and one out. The Twins escape that jam with no more damage but lose 4-3.
Those are nine cases, some more egregious than others, in which Nolasco failed to deliver a shut-down inning when the Twins really could have used it. Sometimes it's circumstance; runs are going to happen. But the Twins simply need their highest-paid pitcher to perform better, particularly in those situations.