Sunday, May 22, 2011

Late night: Diamondbacks 9, Twins 6

Arizona baserunner Gerald Parra celebrates teammate
Kelly Johnson's eighth-inning grand slam off Matt Capps.
Game story here

Box score here

A painful loss for the Twins. Painful for the loss itself and — perhaps worse — for the injury to Glen Perkins, who has been their most effective reliever and is now headed to the disabled list.

From LaVelle Neal's game story:

...The problems that doomed the Twins began in the middle innings.
That's when Scott Baker threw 102 pitches over five innings, then had to start the sixth because his spot was due up the next inning.

"Had to." Not really, sir. Not at all, in fact. Follow me:

Delmon Young was hitting seventh in the order. Baker, of course, was hitting ninth. In between was Drew Butera, who made the last out in the top of the sixth with Ben Revere on deck and Alex Burnett warming up. Had Butera kept the inning alive, Revere would have pinch hit.

What Gardenhire could have done — what I would have done in a Strat-O-Matic game — was double switch. Revere enters as the left fielder in the ninth slot, Burnett as the pitcher hitting seventh. Gardy instead kept Baker in —for two batters.

Then in came Phil Dumatrait, hitting ninth. And when Dumatrait retired only one of three batters, in came Burnett, hitting ninth. And in the top of the seventh, Revere hit for Burnett. When Joe Nathan took the hill, he too was hitting ninth and Revere was out of the game.

And in the fatal eighth inning, Young — who has less range than Revere — failed to get to a catchable fly. 

A double switch at any point in that Baker-Dumatrait-Burnett sequence of pitchers would have improved the left field defense and, perhaps, saved a bullpen move. 

To some degree, such second-guessing of Gardenhire is beside the point. That he burned two relievers in the sixth probably doesn't affect who was pitching in the decisive eighth. He had Nathan start the inning, then Perkins, then Matt Capps. Those are the three guys Gardy has some faith in for the late innings of a winnable game, and they didn't get the job done. Saving Dumatrait or Burnett in the sixth doesn't change that.

We can't know what would have happened had Gardenhire double switched at some point in the sixth inning — he had three chances to do so, and passed on each. We do know that the pitchers he used that inning gave up two runs, that the outfielder he left in the game later butchered a fly ball, and that his bullpen is once again a shambles.

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