The Red Sox arrived here Monday with 10 victories in 15 games, and with a total of 85 runs in that stretch. There was an asterisk attached to this, considering the final three victories and 28 of the runs came in a series at Baltimore.
Boston managed five runs in 26 innings at Target Field in the first two nights and split those games.
On Wednesday, the Red Sox showed off their hitting, as Twins starter Kyle Gibson struggled with command of his breaking pitches, umpire Jim Reynolds’ dancing strike zone, and well-aimed Boston bouncers and line drives.
Gibson went 4⅓ innings in the 9-4 loss and was charged with six runs in his poorest start since opening his sixth full season with three of the same variety.
This clunker was certain to incite more indignation among those Twins followers convinced that Derek Falvey’s decision-makers and Jim Pohlad’s budget-keepers have been insufficient in constructing a pitching staff.
This is for a team that headed to Kansas City after Wednesday’s game with a 48-25 record (.658), equaling the 1970 AL West champions for the best 73-game start in the Twins’ 59 seasons.
Don’t remind the Pitching Panickers that Jose Berrios held Boston to one run in eight innings on Monday, before Blake Parker gave up another run in the ninth in the Twins’ 2-0 loss.
“Yeah, that was Berrios,” they will say. “This team needs Madison Bumgarner. Or Trevor Bauer. Although … the Twins already gave away the season when they didn’t sign Craig Kimbrel for the bullpen.
Don’t remind the panickers that Michael Pineda made it through six innings Tuesday and left with a 1-1 tie. That gave Pineda two straight strong starts, and the first indication that paying him to spend 2018 rehabilitating from Tommy John surgery could wind up being worthwhile.
Of course, once Pineda left, and manager Rocco Baldelli went through the trusted trio of Ryne Harper, Trevor May and Taylor Rogers for one inning apiece, it was time for the onslaught to begin.
As it turned out, the panickers got a surprise. Baldelli summoned five more relievers, the remainder of his eight-man bullpen. Tyler Duffey, Parker, Mike Morin, Matt Magill and Zach Littell combined to allow one run over the last seven innings of a 4-3, 17-inning victory.
Sorry to disappoint the Twins’ budget-blasters, but there is no pitching crisis here as long as reasonable health continues.
After Wednesday, the Twins stood fourth in the AL (behind Tampa Bay and Houston) with a team ERA of 3.94. The Twins were second in the AL with a 3.58 ERA for starters.
Overall, the Twins were second in the AL behind Houston in innings from their starters with 418. The league average for innings from starters was 377.
That comparative consistency with the rotation invalidates another complaint that’s been offered: The Twins are leaning too heavily on their bullpen.
Far from it, by the standards of 2019. The Twins had required the second-fewest innings — 227 — in the AL from their relievers entering Wednesday. The league average was 273.
If you’re looking to create a crisis, Twins relievers were ninth in the AL with a 4.56 ERA. If you’re looking for comfort, they were relying on the bullpen for two outs fewer per game than the average, and after inflating their number with 33 outs on Tuesday night.
Here’s the deal with the bullpen:
Rogers is excellent. End of discussion.
The Twins knew that May had the pitches, have stuck with him in big situations, and are now finding results — nine scoreless appearances in his past 10.
Harper, the career minor leaguer, is a secret weapon with those slow-breaking pitches.
Parker has been a disappointment. He went on leave because of a private family emergency on Wednesday.
Parker’s struggles have created an opening in the bullpen’s front four, and Tyler Duffey might be ready to claim it. There’s an uptick in velocity and better action on his breaking pitches.
If you have four relievers to trust when ahead in a ballgame, and you’re not required to use those relievers as often as most other clubs, that’s not a crisis.
That’s an acceptable situation for Baldelli and pitching coach Wes Johnson, and the tandem has made the most of it to this point.