Pat Dean was born and raised a Yankees fan, which must feel a little strange today. It’s like a dog admiring the model of the car that ran him over.
In his first career start against his boyhood idols — well, against the current iteration of the 27-time champions anyway — Dean faced 16 Yankees batters, allowed half of them to wallop hits, walked three more and recorded only seven outs. His seven-run disaster doomed the Twins to a tedious 8-2 loss at Target Field that even two fireworks displays couldn’t enliven, and then earned him a return ticket to Class AAA Rochester after the game.
It’s Tommy Milone’s turn to try to add a dollop of effectiveness to a starting rotation that is officially the game’s worst now. Designated for assignment five weeks ago and returned to Rochester after all 29 MLB teams passed on him, Milone, who again has been sensational at Class AAA since his demotion (4-0 with a 1.66 ERA), will be available in the Twins’ revolving-door bullpen this weekend, then take over Dean’s slot in the rotation at the next opportunity.
He’ll fit right in. Milone’s 5.79 ERA in the majors this year matches his fellow Twins starters, all of whom has an ERA over 5.00. The team’s collective ERA from its starters is 5.71, by far the worst in the majors.
Hardly any of that was Dean’s fault, though, at least before Friday. But the Naugatuck, Conn., native, who visited Yankee Stadium annually during his childhood, was greeted by a single, a double and a home run before he retired a batter, with Carlos Beltran’s upper-deck uppercut on a 3-2 pitch the big jolt to Dean’s system.
“I tried to go with the slider, I left it up, and he was right on it,” Dean said of Beltran. “I wanted to get it down, and it just stayed flat on me.”
From there, New York added another run in the first inning, in part because he failed to cover first base on Didi Gregorius’ hot smash, then passed three more on in the third, forcing Molitor to reluctantly hand more than six innings to his bullpen.
“It happened fast. You hate to say a game’s over early,” manager Paul Molitor said, but he knew with veteran Masahiro Tanaka on the mound for New York, it probably was.
“Pat was coming off a relatively good performance against Boston, and it’s just bang-bang-bang.”
There was a lot of bang-bang-bang during the game, since the seventh and eighth innings were played amid a long fireworks display at the Stone Arch Festival, visible just beyond the center field fence. The Twins had their own display after the game, too, perhaps payback to an announced crowd of 23,161 that saw few offensive fireworks after the Yankees’ initial outburst.
In all, Dean threw 68 pitches, but only 38 for strikes. “I can’t let things like tonight happen, where I let the game speed up. I need to slow it down, keep in control of the pace of the game, and don’t let it get away from me,” he said. “I just didn’t do my job today.”
Tanaka did, limiting the Twins to six singles and a double over eight innings, good for only one run. He had a second-inning hiccup, giving up a single to Trevor Plouffe, a double to Eduardo Escobar and an RBI groundout to Max Kepler, but didn’t let another Twin advance as far as second base until the eighth inning. Escobar homered off reliever Nick Goody in the ninth, his first of the season.
Dean heads back to Rochester having pitched in four Twins victories in his six starts — this for a team that has won only 20 of 67 games. He sounded optimistic that, like Milone, he will be back before long.
Molitor thinks so, too.
“There are some glimpses there,” he said. “For the most part, he went after hitters. He’s the kind of guy who does pitch to corners, tonight too many times where he missed.”