CHICAGO – Well, the Twins lost again.
You can read my gamer here and check out my notebook here if you want all the deets on the 9-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday. But it'll feel a little like deja vu. Yet again the Twins built up an early lead, only to squander it and then failed to score any late-inning runs while allowing the opponent basically an open-season on the bullpen.
The Twins' struggling bullpen has been a theme all year. But what made Tuesday a bit unique was manager Rocco Baldelli's choice to field Jorge Alcala as starter Kenta Maeda's first relief. Caleb Thielbar and Derek Law followed. But the Twins should have had everyone in the bullpen available for selection, coming off two off days from Monday's scheduled break and Sunday's rain postponement in Detroit.
Alcala took the loss, his record at 0-1, after pitching one inning with two hits, two earned runs (including a homer) and a walk. Thielbar went 1 1/3 innings, giving up three hits and four earned runs with a walk and two strikeouts. Law finished the last 2/3 inning, coughing up two hits.
Baldelli said he chose those three instead of some more reliable names such as Taylor Rogers and Hansel Robles, for a reason.
"Alcala's been a guy that we've started going to in important spots, and he's taken to those challenges well, and I can see us continually going out there and putting him in spots that are going to help us win," Baldelli said. "We want to lean on him to go get guys out, especially good right-handed hitters, which I think plays into his strengths. [Tuesday] was not his day. Obviously left a pitch up to a good hitter and ended up in the seats."
The first batter Alcala faced was actually lefty Adam Eaton, who grounded out. Switch hitter Yoan Moncada walked. Right-handed batter Jose Abreu homered. Fellow righty Yermin Mercedes also had a base hit. Before another switch hitter in Yasmani Grandal grounded into a double play.
"It's hard to match up to every hitter in the entire second half of the game," Baldelli said. "… Our guys are going to have to go out there and face guys from both sides of the plate. There were switch-hitters, which obviously always creates problems when you're looking at matchups. But Alcala is going to have to go out there and face some lefties in order to get to those righties in the lineups at times. None of these lineups are going to be strictly one side of the plate. So he's going to have to go out there and kind of work through that. Obviously, he's been very good against righties. Not as good against left-handers."
Baldelli remarked his bullpen couldn't sustain continuing to switch pitchers just for better matchups in close games, especially given the upcoming stretch of consecutive-games against American League leaders.
Chicago manager Tony La Russa did deploy a bevy of relievers to force matchups. He took out right-handed pitcher Matt Foster for lefty Garrett Crochet (who earned his first win with his 1-2 record) in the sixth. Baldelli sent out Mitch Garver as a pinch hitter, but he flew out. La Russa did the same in the seventh, pulling righty Codi Heuer after he allowed some runners on base and put in LHP Aaron Bummer. Baldelli again pinch-hit a batter with usual success against lefties in Kyle Garlick, but he only managed to reach on a fielding error.
"We had a chance, and that's really what we can ask for," Baldelli said. "And again, you never know what the result is going to be. But bringing in Garlick and Garver to face those guys is something that we're going to do again, and I would bet on them getting the job done at a good rate.
"We needed it [Tuesday]. We didn't get it. And that's part of baseball."
(Here's a bonus blog about some of the Twins' relievers from Michael Rand!)