With Kyle Gibson sitting under 100 pitches through six innings on Sunday, Paul Molitor had a decision to make. Go to the bullpen, or let Gibson pitch the seventh.
Molitor decided to let Gibson start to seventh. Eleven pitches and a walk to Jake Marisnick later, Gibson was out of the game. Houston scored two insurance runs that inning. And fans ripped the Gibson decision on social media.
Gibson should have been out of the game, patted on the back for getting through six. But the move was a reflection of the lack of reliable bullpen depth on Molitor's roster.
Managers have a group of relievers they use when games are tied or a when a lead needs to be protected. Molitor has two - just two - of those in righthander Tyler Duffey and lefthander Taylor Rogers. Combined with closer Brandon Kintzler, the group is being called, "the triumphant trio," by Molitor.
But no one has stepped up from the rest of the group to create a Quality Quartet or at least be able to hold a score where it is so the offense can cobble together a tying run. Molitor said before the game that he didn't want to use Phil Hughes on Sunday, as they are still trying to figure out how much they can use him before his fingers start to get numb on the mound (that, by the way, needs to be addressed. Either use him or put him back on the DL).
Molitor then looked past Matt Belisle and Ryan Pressly and sent Trevor Hildenberger to the mound. A rookie instead of two experienced pitchers. That didn't work well, as Marisnick stole second, hustled to third on a ground out then scored bad throw to third by Kennys Vargas. Houston tacked on another run later in the inning.
The Twins did cobble togther a run in the ninth, but it meant nothing.
Now Molitor could deserve criticism for bringing in a rookie in the situation. But it also appeared to be a refection in his confidence in the rest of his bullpen to handle situations.
So as the Twins look for starting pitching help before the deadline, they better be looking for relievers, too.
But a few more losses like the one on Sunday, and they will be sellers.
On to the Yankees.
The Twins usually take batting practice first and are off the field by around 5:30 p.m. That's right when the gates are open at Target Field. So fans will be able to watch Aaron Judge and the Yankees take batting practice before tonight's game.