Monday, July 16, 2018

Into the break

Well, that was a wacky one Sunday, and the Twins go into their four-day vacation on a hgih note. A few comments:

* Did a 9-2 homestand take the front office out of their expected/projected sell mode? My guess is not.

That came against a fairly weak set of opponents. Tampa Bay is a competitive team; the Orioles and Royals are not. Yes, the Twins made up four games in the standings, but they remain 7.5 games behind Cleveland, and the schedule is about to get a bit tougher.

* The Twins got a dose of Tampa Bay's "opener" strategy Sunday, with Ryne Stanek working the first two innings and making a planned early departure. (The Twins scored a run against him, ending his streak of nine straight "opens" without allowing a run.)

As I understand what the Rays are doing, they have basically three kinds of pitching plans:

  • Traditional starter. We saw this in the first three games of the series, with Blake Snell, Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Archer. They are the only true starters on the Rays staff at the moment, and Eovadi and Archer have each been on the DL in recent weeks.
  • Starter in the middle. The opener goes an inning, maybe a batter or two more, and then a pitcher enters with the intent of working through the order (18 hitters) at least twice. This is generally how Ryan Yarbourgh has been used. 
  • "True" bullpen games. This is what we got on Sunday. The Rays used nine pitchers, none of whom got more than six outs.
Yarbourgh, who pitched Sunday and got five outs, is basically a misplaced starter. The rookie lefty is second on the team in innings pitched with just five official starts in 24 games pitched. He's averaging almost four innings an appearance.  Sunday's outing was a bit briefer because he pitched three innings on Wednesday and an inning on Friday.

* So we aren't to read anything into the fifth inning use of Fernando Rodney; he pitched early because he had a plane to catch in order to make his appointment to become a citizen, which is an excellent excuse. 

Unfortunately, Trevor Hildenberger blew the save in the ninth, which means Dick-n-Bert will be vocally worried about the lack of a proven closer the next time Rodney isn't available for the ninth inning.

* Botton of the 10th. Jake Cave leads off with a double. Mitch Garver bunts him to third, and Dick-n-Bert are happy. The real result of that bunt is that the bat was taken out of the hands of the Twins two best left-handed hitters, because Joe Mauer and Eddie Rosario were walked.

It worked out for the Twins, obviously, as Brian Dozier's fly ball got over the wall for a grand slam. But I was sitting there muttering that the Twins deserved to see him ground into a double play. I'd rather they take three shots at scoring Cave from second with Garver, Mauer and Rosario against a righty than two shots at scoring him from third with Dozier and Escobar Adrianza.

* I've read game stories out of both the Twin Cities and Tampa Bay, and still have no idea what the two bench-clearings were about. 

Were the Rays peeved that Dozier took advantage of their extreme shift and provoked a balk?Probably, but that's as much their own fault as were the throwing errors that put Dozier on third base to begin with. 

I'm going to chalk it up to general crankiness and forget about it. 


  1. I generally don't like seeing a team give up an out for a base. Also your reasoning in this case is pretty sound but I will point out 2 things. First, as you undoubtly know there are 7 ways to score from 3rd without a base hit. I don't know how frequently they occur in major league but one had already occurred in this game.

    While walking both Mauer and Rosario is certainly a likely strategy in this situation, it was not the only one or even necessarily the best one. For one thing it brought into play one of 7 ways to score from 3rd base. When you have a hard throwing reliever with shaky control,loading the bases and giving him an opportunity to walk in a run may not be the best strategy. I would guess that Molitor might have thought that could opt to pitch to either Mauer or Rosario rather than deliberately decide to pitch to a guy with good strike zone judgement and good chance to get the ball deep enough for a sac fly.

  2. Ed, what do you hope the team does during the trading deadline? I'd be trying to move anybody not named Barrios or Buxton or Romero. I'd even dangle Eddie Rosario or Kyle Gibson, assuming that their value will never be higher.

    Chris in Osaka