The Twins narrowly avoided a disastrous loss on Saturday night, as they were able to battle back for an extra-innings victory after blowing a four-run lead in the ninth, but that didn't stop fans from unleashing their venom on the club during its brutal late-game implosion.
Much vitriol was aimed at Ron Gardenhire, who had Ron Mahay start the ninth with a four-run lead and watched the left-hander load the bases without recording an out before giving way to Jon Rauch, who allowed all three runners to score plus a couple more as the Twins watched a 6-2 lead turn into a 7-6 deficit.
I'm baffled with the anger at Gardenhire. Mahay had been highly effective all season up to that point and was facing the bottom three hitters in the Milwaukee lineup, two of whom were lefties. Still, it was clear on this day that neither Mahay nor Rauch could get the job done, and unfortunately Gardenhire's other options were limited. That's because he'd already been forced to use two of his most reliable relievers in the game due to Kevin Slowey's inability to get his job done.
Despite being handed a 4-0 lead in the first inning, Slowey was unable to work through six frames on Saturday, as Gardenhire was forced to remove him with two outs in the sixth after Corey Hart launched a deep bomb against the right-hander. While that was the only run he allowed in the start, Slowey was unable to work efficiently through the Brewers lineup in spite of his comfortable lead, as his pitch count sat at 102 when Gardenhire took the ball from him.
The short start marked the continuation of a disturbing trend for Slowey. Outside of his eight-inning gem against the punchless Indians lineup early in the season, Slowey has failed to complete six innings in any of his nine starts. This hasn't necessarily been the result of bad pitching, as Slowey has allowed more than three runs only twice, but it's taking him way too many pitches to get people out.
Relief implosions like the one we witnessed on Saturday are bound to happen if you're leaning too hard on your bullpen, and Slowey has been doing just that all year. Blame Gardenhire, Mahay and Rauch for the meltdown all you want, but Saturday's ninth inning nightmare was inevitable and it will happen again if Slowey can't find a way to start pitching deeper into games.