The final regular-season game at Target Field served as a quintessential 2019 Twins game. Majestic home runs, lots of scoring and shaky starting pitching.
Whether you view that as being half-full or half-empty, that’s the formula, folks.
The Twins inched closer Sunday to clinching the AL Central title with a 12-8 win over the Kansas City Royals, which means they inched closer to having to set a starting rotation for a playoff series.
Good luck to Rocco Baldelli, Falvine and the rest of the organizational brain trust who are tasked with figuring out this square peg-round hole conundrum.
Maybe Nelson Cruz can pitch, too?
Cruz’s milestone 400th career home run — and 40th of the season — and two moonshots by Miguel Sano served as a rollicking diversion from another rough outing by Martin Perez, who failed to make it out of the third inning after being spotted a 6-0 lead.
Thirty thousand fans serenaded Cruz with multiple standing ovations. They wouldn’t be faulted for agonizing over the state of the rotation.
This has become a fascinating juxtaposition for a team that owns one of the best records in Major League Baseball. The Twins now have 96 wins, a billion home runs and only two reliable (or semi-reliable) starting pitchers. They are a terrific team with one glaring deficiency that continues to be mitigated by historic offensive production.
Baldelli and Co. have some tough decisions looming regarding the postseason rotation once the team wraps up the division title this week.
Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi are the only surefire options at this point, and even No. 1 comes with some anxiousness.
Berrios had appeared to be emerging from his August slump until he suffered another hiccup in a 12-5 loss to the Royals on Saturday. He allowed five runs in six innings, coughing up a three-run lead.
Baldelli’s plan after Berrios and Odorizzi is murky because viable options are dwindling. Utilizing an opener/bullpen strategy looks the best option at this point.
Michael Pineda put the organization in a tough predicament after testing positive for a banned substance, earning a 60-game suspension. It is impossible to overstate the depth to which Pineda’s actions have created a dilemma for the team in scripting pitching matchups. He was their best starter at the time of his suspension.
If Perez is auditioning for a spot in the postseason rotation, he did little to inspire confidence Sunday after allowing five runs in just 2⅓ innings. Perez is leaking oil, giving up five or more runs in three of his past five starts. He can’t be trusted in a big moment right now.
Asked what adjustments he needs to make, Perez said, “Nothing.”
Baldelli isn’t one to offer even snippets of criticism of his players, and he bit his tongue again after Perez’s latest dud.
“I’ll probably wait to assess what we saw,” he said. “It didn’t look like he was on top of his game throwing the ball the way he wants to. I think there were some pitches that were probably hittable pitches. You try to make good pitches and throw strikes, and you’re also trying not to throw the ball in the middle of the zone.”
Kyle Gibson likely lost his grip on a postseason spot because he just doesn’t look healthy physically. He has been dealing with ulcerative colitis this summer and his weight loss is noticeable. He has an 8.02 ERA in his past eight outings. Something is off, and time is running out to get it corrected.
So that leaves Berrios, Odorizzi and … a heavy workload for the bullpen.
Bomba Squad to the rescue!
The uncertainty with their rotation puts even more pressure on the lineup to bash home runs and circle the bases. The Twins have scored 906 runs this season, a franchise record. Their formula is no secret. It was on full display again in the final home game of the regular season.
The Twins packed their bags Sunday evening for a flight to Detroit and one final road trip. They’re not ready to shut down Target Field just yet.