This might be a weird question to ask after the Twins played one of their worst games of the season, a 7-0 loss to the Angels filled with fielding blunders and just two hits for Minnesota, but I’m going to ask it anyway because I’ve been thinking about it for a good 10 days (not nonstop … that would be weird … but still): If the Twins do manage to find their way into the playoffs as a Wild Card team, which figures to be their most likely path, who would you want on the mound for what is now a one-game, winner-take-all playoff between the two Wild Card teams?
Keep in mind, of course, that Ervin Santana — no matter how well he pitches down the stretch — is not an option because as part of the terms of his drug suspension this year he is ineligible for the postseason.
We can probably also rule out Mike Pelfrey, who has regressed after a great start … and Trevor May because he’s still developing … and Tommy Milone because for as well as he’s pitched at many times this year he’s a notch below the top of the rotation … and Ricky Nolasco, who even when healthy hasn’t shown that he belongs in the mix at the top.
That would leave us with Kyle Gibson and Phil Hughes. And that would be an interesting conversation if the Twins were able to line up their rotation in a way to make it a choice.
There are pluses and minuses with both. Hughes was easily the team’s best pitcher last season and, after a sluggish start this year, is 4-0 with a 2.85 ERA in his past six starts to boost his overall numbers into much better shape. His “bad” starts don’t tend to be blow up starts — more like 5 to 6 innings with 3 or 4 runs allowed, and he has worked at least six innings in all but three of his 19 starts this year. You pretty much know what you’re getting. It won’t always be dominant, but it’s usually at least decent.
Gibson, last night’s start notwithstanding (one in which he didn’t help himself at all with a poor fielding play in the blow-up sixth inning), has been the Twins’ best starter for most of the season. He has generally avoided the types of dreadful starts that plagued him a year ago while progressively bumping up his strikeouts as the year has gone on. Still, he would remain somewhat of an unknown in a big game while Hughes, with far more major league starts under his belt, offers a more known commodity.
I would probably tend to go with Hughes, but I’d be tempted to roll with Gibson. Your thoughts, please, in the comments.