Second-guessing after two blowout playoff losses tends to be low-hanging fruit and ultimately an exercise in futility. When you get outscored 18-6, as the Twins did Friday and Saturday combined against the Yankees, would a handful of borderline decisions really have affected the outcome?
Maybe not. But …
These three decisions by the Twins and manager Rocco Baldelli were fair to wonder about before they had negative consequences. So these aren’t outcome-based questions even if the outcomes were poor.
1. Starting Luis Arraez on Friday over Jonathan Schoop at second base. Arraez was a big reason the Twins surged to the AL Central title. But the lefthanded Arraez was also coming off an ankle sprain. Defense hasn’t been his strong suit this season to begin with.
If ever there was a time to play the righthanded and more sure-handed (and strong-armed) Schoop, it was against lefty James Paxton in Game 1. Arraez missed a short popup at the start of New York’s three-run third. His double-play relay throw was low later in the inning (though the error was charged to C.J. Cron). Schoop probably makes both plays look easy. The Yankees scored three runs, turning a 2-0 Twins lead into a 3-2 deficit in an eventual 10-4 game.
2. The bullpen use Friday was questionable. Zack Littell has been good this year, but he might not be my first choice in the fifth inning right after tying the score 3-3. His two batters (walk and hit by pitch) both scored after Tyler Duffey was pressed into relief.
It was still just 5-4 in the sixth, but the next two relievers were Cody Stashak and Kyle Gibson — who honestly might have been the last two guys to make the 12-man playoff pitching staff. I get not wanting to burn all your top relievers while trailing, especially with another game looming Saturday, but if you really believe in your offense shouldn’t you give the team the best chance to rally? Stashak and Gibson gave up five runs combined. Game over.
3. Duffey was the first call out of the pen in the third inning Saturday — even after throwing 25 high-pressure pitches Friday — when the Twins had several very well-rested options. He came into a 1-0 game, bases loaded, nobody out. Six runs later, the Yankees had blown the game open.
Again, the Yankees are good enough that maybe those decisions ultimately wouldn’t have mattered. But when the margins are thin, questionable decisions are magnified that much more.
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The setup was there for this to be an entirely lost weekend in New York. The Twins sputtered in their two games, and the Vikings came into a road game with the Giants after a week that your passive-aggressive aunt would describe as “interesting.”
It felt possible that the Vikings would implode. That they were far from it in a commanding 28-10 victory lends credence to the idea that Mike Zimmer still has a firm hold on the locker room.
Oh yeah, and Kirk Cousins posting a 138.6 passer rating while hitting Adam Thielen for 130 yards and two touchdowns? That’ll put a hard stop on that controversy.
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The path to an 8-0 start for the Gophers football team keeps coming into sharper focus. They’re already 5-0 after a no-doubter 40-17 win over Illinois on Saturday.
Next is a home game against Nebraska, which could be without starting quarterback Adrian Martinez and star receiver JD Spielman. Both were injured in Saturday’s 13-10 win over Iowa. If the Gophers can win that test, their next two after that (at Rutgers, home vs. Maryland) look quite inviting.