TORONTO — Paul Molitor talked on Saturday about his determination to find ways to end the losing streak. One of them, he said, might involve the bullpen.
“You think about doing things differently when you’re in these kind of stretches. I had a thought during the game [Friday] night, when we got to [within] 6-5 even though we were in the sixth inning, to go to someone a little bit more experienced to try to keep that game close longer,” Molitor said. “You become vulnerable near the end if you have to find other people to fill the end of the game, [but] you don’t just want to go, ‘OK, it’s the sixth inning, it’s too early.’ When you’re trying to find a way to win a game, sometimes you have to think outside the box a little bit.”
On Sunday, I thought he would have his chance. Kyle Gibson allowed a pair of runs in the sixth inning, but rookie Pat Light rescued him by getting Josh Thole to ground into an inning-ending double play. That meant the Twins still held a one-run lead, 5-4, but the top of the Blue Jays’ order was due up on the seventh, that sluggers’ row of Bautista-Donaldson-Encarnacion-Martin-Tulowitzki.
The heavily worked Ryan Pressly had thrown 34 pitches on Saturday, so he was out. But closer Brandon Kintzler had pitched only once in the past week, a 10-pitch mop-up outing on Thursday. With Molitor’s words in my ears, I confidently predicted in the press box that Kintzler would be summoned to pitch the seventh.
I guessed wrong.
“I didn’t think it was an option in the seventh inning,” Molitor said. “Obviously you can try to have him put up a zero, maybe two, and try to figure out a way to hang on at the end. The seventh inning was going to be key.”
Molitor had a point about having few options for the ninth inning, even if Kintzler kept the Blue Jays in check. So he chose to stick with Light, who had looked good finishing the sixth inning, but who has little experience against a lineup as potent as Toronto’s is now. Light was eager to get his shot, but it didn’t go well. Jose Bautista hit a hard grounder that got through the infield for a single, and Josh Donaldson followed up by whacking a 1-and-0 fastball over the center field wall, putting the Jays ahead for good.
In the end, the Jays added three more runs against three pitchers who had fewer than 16 inings of major league experience between them, and Kintzler didn’t get into the game. “I thought about trying to get four outs [with him], maybe 5 outs,” Molitor said, “but I didn’t think that was the time, even though unconventional might work.”