Phil Miller covered three seasons of Twins baseball, but that was at a different ballpark for a different newspaper. Now Miller returns to the baseball beat after joining the Star Tribune as the Gopher football writer in 2010, and he won't miss the dingy dome for a minute. In addition to the Twins and Gophers, Miller covered the Utah Jazz and the NBA for six years at The Salt Lake Tribune.

Never-win vs. never-lose? Twins beat the odds

Posted by: Phil Miller under MLB Updated: September 11, 2013 - 12:36 AM

    Jarrod Parker never loses. Liam Hendriks never wins. So of course the Twins beat the A's on Tuesday.

    The Parker-Hendriks matchup was instructive in how statistics can deceive, and how perceptions color what you see. Neither starting pitcher was involved in the decision, which isn't unusual for either one. It's the fourth no-decision in seven starts this year for Hendriks, and the 12th in 29 starts for Parker.

    Their career paths could not be more different, however. Hendriks has started 27 career games and owns only two wins. Parker, only 10 weeks older than Hendriks, has 24 wins in 59 career starts. Though he started the season by going 1-5, Parker has not lost a game since May 22, a streak of starts that reached 19 tonight, just two shy of Lefty Grove's 21 straight for the 1931 A's. (One other amazing stat: Parker has never taken a loss in a game in which the A's scored three or more runs.)

    The statistics say they had a pretty comparable night. Hendriks recorded 16 outs, Parker 18. Each allowed seven hits. Hendriks struck out six (a modest career-high) and walked none, though he hit two batters, and regretted both. Parker walked three, none to any effect, and struck out four. Parker allowed two solo home runs, Hendricks one homer and three runs.

    Yet while Hendriks had only allowed two baserunners through the fourth inning, and Parker had given up four hits and a Josh Willingham homer, it always felt like the A's righthander was in control, and the Twins' was trying to hang on.

    "It was labor. He really worked at it. A lot of fastballs -- he really didn't have much of a breaking ball. Some decent change-ups," manager Ron Gardenhire said of his starter. "The best you can say is, he hung in there, he never gave up the big inning. But the pace of the game wasn't very good. There were a lot of big counts. He hung in there, he didn't implode. He didn't put us deep in the hole, but it wasn't his best performance."

    Parker, however, never seemed anything but in total control -- even if the stats say he was just so-so.

    "He's a really good pitcher. You saw the great change-up -- that's the best changeup I've seen him have. We've heard he's gotten a lot better, well he definitely has," Gardenhire said. "Early in the game, lot of guys were rolling over balls. He had late movement with some good sink on it."

    So doesn't Hendriks worry that the perception of his ability might be colored by his inability to record a win?

    "It gets a little frustrating, but that's how it goes. Hopefully i can stay here long enough to let it swing the other way, and I go on a streak," he said. "I'm starting to feel good, and keeping the team in the game. ... I know the coaching staff, as long as I'm improving, it'll be good."

    -- Yoenis Cespedes is a fast runner, but he has a reputation for being a mistake-prone baserunner, and he lived up to that with a critical error on Tuesday. The Cuban slugger was on first base, and Brandon Moss on second, with one out in the sixth inning, when Alberto Callaspo hit a fly ball to the warning track in center.

    Alex Presley caught the ball, turned and fired it in. Moss tagged up and moved up to third -- and Cespedes decided to move up, too.

    Big mistake. Presley nailed Cespedes at second, killing a good scoring opportunity. It was the Twins' 42nd outfield assist of the season, second by Presley, which is the fourth-most in Twins history.

    "That was a big play," Gardenhire said, and not just by Presley. "[Pedro] Florimon, who was out [in the outfield], recognized it, came back and made a nice play himself on getting back to the bag and making the tag."


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