Monday, August 14, 2017

Short starts, sloppy play, two wins

The Twins, especially the overworked bullpen, need today's off day. They have the first-place Cleveland Indians in town the next three days, and if Paul Molitor has been jumpy with his starting pitchers the last four days -- and he has -- he has reason to continue that.

The Twins took two of three from Detroit, a bad team on a death march, over the weekend. But they did so without any quality starts. Kyle Gibson and Jose Berrios were yanked in the fifth and fourth innings on Friday and Saturday respectively, and Ervin Santana staggered through five. Toss in Dietrich Enns' quick hook on Thursday, and that's 46 outs from the starters in the last four games.

Enns' hook was purely the manager's descretion. Pulling the rookie southpaw in the third inning with a four-run lead at literally the first sign of trouble was Molitor managing in mid August like it is late September. I couldn't blame him at the time -- the bullpen was well-rested at that point, and the Twins can't afford to give away games -- but it set the tone for the next three days.

Saturday was frankly awful. Berros put the Twins down 5-0, they came back to take a five-run lead in the seventh, and the bullpen melted down late for a 12-11 loss.

What struck me about that atrocity was that, in a game marked by some outstanding defensive plays, the Twins infield twice failed to get out of innings -- and those failures led to eight runs.

First inning, Jorge Polanco juggled a slow grounder with two outs and two on. He needed a clean exchange between glove and throw, didn't execute it. It was ruled a hit, and no official scorer would rule otherwise, but it's a play I expect major league shortstops to make. A run scored on the play. Berrios walked the next hitter, then served up a grand slam.

Eighth inning, Trevor Hilgenberger gets a double-play grounder with men on first and third, but Miguel Sano unaccountably hesitated to go to to second and only got one out. A run scored, and the next guy homered, and a four-run lead dwindled to one. Again, no error charged, but it was a mental miscue by Sano.

And Sunday's fifth inning, which undid Santana's start, was just awful. Three passed balls and a wild pitch? I was about ready to call on Twitter for Chris Gimenez to be DFA'd in mid inning. Toss in an error by Sano at first base, and two walks and a hit batter by Santana ... ugly, ugly, ugly.

The Twins survived that. The weary bullpen can rest their arms on today's offday.

But the bigger issue remains. The Twins have two weeks to go until the rosters expand; can Molitor's bullpen, even at eight arms, survive that long pitching half the innings? He really needs more than a dozen outs a game from his starters.

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