Startribune.com digital sports editor Howard Sinker used to cover the Twins and now shares season tickets with friends in Section 219 of Target Field. He blogs about baseball from the perspective of a long-time fan who loves the game, doesn’t always believe the hype and likes hearing what others think. Howard sometimes talks about sports with Cathy Wurzer on MPR's Morning Edition.
Well, Monday night was 4 hours and 44 minutes investment in Twins baseball that didn't pay off with a victory. It was an exciting (if flawed) game that unraveled at the very end, owing to the off-balance throw Jared Burton didn't need to make in the 11th inning and the follow-up two-out hits by Boston's No. 8 and 9 batters that ended the 6-5 loss.
It was also a game the Twins shouldn't have lost and a game that continued a couple of painful trends.
For the seventh straight game, the Twins bullpen was required to work three innings or more. Not since a week ago Sunday, when Kevin Correia shut down Texas, has a Twins starter made it to the seventh -- and that takes a toll, either because of the stress it puts on key relievers or because of the relievers that need to be used to keep key relievers as fresh as possible.
Simply stated, the Twins need more innings from their starters more often.
Vance Worley continued pitching poorly, talking afterward about he had command until he "started to elevate," in his words, in his final two innings. The biggest problem is that his final two innings were the fifth and sixth, during which the Red Sox got five hits in seven at-bats -- setting the stage for the bullpen needing to work 5 2/3 innings. Worley has lasted six innings in only two of his seven starts and has a 6.95 ERA to show for it.
According to La Velle's postgame blog, Worley appeared surprised that Gardy took him out after starting the sixth by giving up two singles with David Ortiz coming to bat. He shouldn't have been.
The Twins frittered away three significant chances to score more runs. The most notable was in the first inning, when they scored two and had the bases loaded with one out before Oswaldo Arcia struck out chasing bad pitches and Aaron Hicks followed with another strikeout. So much for having the Boston ace, Clay Buchholz, on the edge of an early knockout.
In the fifth, the Twins scored only one run after Joe Mauer started the inning with a double and went to third on Josh Willingham's single. A sacrifice fly by Morneau -- whose slugging percentage right now (.361) is four points higher than Joltin' Jamey Carroll's -- was followed by a Chris Parmelee's ground out and a fly out by Trevor Plouffe, who got a second chance after an error by Mike Napoli on a comically butchered foul pop-up.
The capper was the seventh. Brian Dozier and Mauer reached base before rookie reliever Alex Wilson struck out Willingham and, after being mocked for his control deficiencies by the Twins' TV crew, Andrew Miller struck out Morneau and Parmelee.
In the meantime, the Twins' 3-0 lead gradually turned into a 5-4 deficit before Dozier's ninth-inning home run.
Quick stat: The Twins are 12th in the American League in runners left in scoring position per game -- while the three teams behind them (Boston, Detroit and Oakland) are among the top five in runs scored. (The Twins are 12th in runs scored.)
Finally, the Twins were also done-in Monday night because of the philosophical decision to have more offense on their bench, which resulted in Ryan Doumit replacing Willingham in left field after Gardy's decision to use a pinch-runner. A "plus" left fielder could have tracked down Drew's game-winning double, which clanged low off the Green Monster, but it would have been almost as much of a highlight play as the excellent diving catch Parmelee made in right field earlier in the inning.
In the bigger picture, having an extra bat on the bench will outweigh the occasional awkward defensive alignments that Gardy's late-game moves with create. We can debate that. But I'll contend the Twins are showing bigger problems than having to put Doumit in the outfield once in a while, including Doumit's .198 batting average.
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