Thursday, June 11, 2009
Thursday: A bullpen breakdown
The Twins didn't do a lot at the plate Thursday — eight hits and three runs — but it was almost enough. They bunched a single, walk and homer (Joe Crede, above) for three runs in the fourth. Which gives them now 75 runs in 20 day games, or 3.75 per game, which doesn't get it done very often in 21st century baseball.
Nick Blackburn had a three-hit shutout going into the eighth and just 80 pitches thrown, according to the radio guys, so I can't second-guess the decision to leave him in. And while Michael Cuddyer misplayed a single into a triple, that didn't matter in the scoring; Adam Kennedy's homer still would have tied the game.
No, the aspect that should roil Ron Gardenhire's gut tonight was how the ninth inning got away from the bullpen.
The A's had three left-handed hitters due up in the ninth, and Gardy went to Sean Henn, successor to Craig Breslow as the second lefty. (Jose Mijares had pitched Tuesday and Wednesday; this is where the ninth inning meltdown of Tuesday night hurts. Had Baker or Crain gotten through the ninth, Mijares doesn't pitch that night, and would have been available Thursday.)
Henn walked Jason Giambi on four pitches. Control has been the issue for Henn; it's why Minnesota is his third organization. He has now pitched 76.2 innings in the majors, and he's walked 56 and struck out 54.
Beyond that, there's no real reason right now to regard Henn as a LOOGY specialist. Lefties are hitting .294 off him this year; righties, .063. Now, that's a very limited number of batters — 34 total, 17 from each side — but it hardly cried out for Henn to be pulled when Oakland pinch hit for the second batter.
Gardenhire brought in Matt Guerrier, who got ahead of pinch-hitter Kurt Suzuki — and then hit hm with a 1-2 pitch. The A's then bunted both baserunners along, and the Twins pulled the infield in, and Rajai Davis chopped the game-winning hit through. That ended the game and the inning, but it sure felt like one of those multi-pitcher, multi-run meltdowns that crippled the Twins last season.
* Jack Hannahan — former Mankato Masher, former Minnesota Gopher — came into the series hitting .179 for the season; he went 5 for 13 ( a double and the Cuddyer-aided triple) and raised his average to .205.
* The Twins' starting outfield was Delmon Young-Cuddyer-Jason Kubel, which is not a particularly impressive defensive alignment. But Blackburn didn't allow a run with that trio behind him; the big inning came after Carlos Gomez entered the game for Kubel.