There are Twins relievers whose names still provoke cringes & winces years after they departed the roster. Let us name them and see if that can inure us to the dreadful performance of Pagán & Duffey.
ATLANTA 14, MINNESOTA 5 IN ATLANTA
Date: Thursday, October 24.
Batting stars: Al Newman was 1-for-1 with a triple. Scott Leius was 1-for-2 with a walk. Chuck Knoblauch was 1-for-3 with a walk.
Pitching stars: None.
Opposition stars: Ron Gant was 3-for-4 with a triple, a walk, and three runs. Greg Olson was 3-for-5 with a stolen base, his second. Brian Hunter was 2-for-2 with a home run (his second), two runs, and two RBIs. Mark Lemke was 2-for-4 with two triples, a walk, two runs, and three RBIs. Terry Pendleton was 2-for-4 with a double, a walk, and three runs. Rafael Belliard was 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs. David Justice was 2-for-5 with a home run (his second), a stolen base (his second), two runs, and five RBIs. Lonnie Smith was 1-for-5 with a home run, his third.
The game: It was scoreless for three innings, but that was shattered in the fourth. Gant led off with a single and Justice hit a two-run homer. Olson got a one-out single, Lemke tripled him home, and Belliard had an RBI double, making the score 4-0 Braves. They added a run in the fifth when Pendleton and Gant singled and Justice had an RBI ground out.
The Twins rallied in the sixth. With one out Knoblauch walked, Kirby Puckett singled, and Chili Davis walked, loading the bases. Brian Harper and Leius each drew a bases-loaded walk, cutting the margin to 5-2. A big hit would've gotten the Twins right back into the game, but all they could manage was a pair of ground outs. One of them did score a run, making the score 5-3.
That was the end of the good news, though. Atlanta put it out of reach with six in the seventh. Smith homered, Justice and Hunter had RBI singles, Lemke drove in two with another triple, and Belliard had an RBI double, making the score 11-3. The Twins got one back in the eighth, when Davis singled and scored on Newman's triple. In the bottom of the eighth, however, Pendleton doubled, Gant tripled, and Hunter homered, bringing the score to 14-4. The Twins got the final run of the game in the ninth when Dan Gladden tripled and scored on a ground out.
WP: Tom Glavine (1-3). LP: Kevin Tapani (1-2). S: None.
Notes: With no DH, Davis was in right field, with Shane Mack on the bench.
The Twins again made substantial use of the bench. Gene Larkin pinch-hit for Tapani in the fifth. Mike Pagliarulo pinch-hit for Terry Leach in the seventh. Also in the seventh, Al Newman went to second base as part of a double switch that took Knoblauch out of the game. Jarvis Brown pinch-hit for Puckett in the eighth, as Tom Kelly conceded the game. Also in the eighth, Randy Bush pinch-hit for Harper and Paul Sorrento pinch-hit for Kent Hrbek. Junior Ortiz came in to catch in the eighth, as Davis left the game as part of a double switch. Sorrento went to first base, Brown went to center, and Bush went to right.
Tapani pitched four innings, allowing four runs on six hits and two walks and striking out four. Atlanta starter Glavine pitched 5.1 innings, giving up three runs on four hits and four walks and striking out two.
The decision to put Davis in the outfield was much debated at the time, and is still a questionable move. He had played only three innings of outfield all season, and all were in blowout games. It seems like a desperation move, and the Twins weren't in a position where they needed to make a desperation move. Did it make a difference in the outcome? Probably not, although we'll never know for sure. I seem to remember him misplaying one ball in the outfield, but I can't tell from the printed play-by-play when it happened or whether it would've made any difference.
The Twins bullpen pretty much melted down in this game. Leach gave up one run in two innings, David West gave up four runs and didn't retire anyone, Steve Bedrosian gave up two runs in one inning, and Carl Willis allowed three runs in one inning. The Twins were still in the game until the seventh inning, so if the bullpen had come through, the outcome might have been different. Of course, if either Hrbek or Greg Gagne could have come up with a hit in the sixth, when the Twins were rallying, the outcome might have been different, too.
There were five triples hit in this game. I wonder what the record is for most triples in a World Series game. My guess is that it was set back in the dead ball era, but I really have no idea.
Mark Lemke was now 7-for-15 with three triples and a double in the series.
So the Twins would head back to Minnesota, with the Braves needing to win just one of two there to take the Series. The Twins had lost two tough games, but now had been blown out and pretty much embarrassed. Could the Twins rally? Would someone step up and take the burden of leadership? We'll see.
Record: The Twins trailed the best-of-seven series two games to three.
MINNESOTA 9, TAMPA BAY 7 IN TAMPA BAY
Date: Sunday, June 2.
Batting stars: Miguel Sano was 3-for-3 with two doubles and a walk. C. J. Cron was 2-for-3 with a double and three RBIs. Jorge Polanco was 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Byron Buxton was 2-for-4 with a double and two runs. Jonathan Schoop was 1-for-4 with a two-run homer, his eleventh.
Pitching stars: Jake Odorizzi struck out nine in six shutout innings, giving up three hits and a walk. Taylor Rogers struck out the side in a perfect inning.
Opposition stars: Ji-Man Choi was 2-for-3 with a double, a walk, and two runs. Austin Meadows was 2-for-5 with two RBIs. Brandon Lowe was 2-for-5. Christian Arroyo was 1-for-3 with a two-run homer.
The game: The first threat came in the second inning, when Choi led off with a double, was bunted to third, but failed to score. The Twins started the scoring in the third. Sano opened the inning with a single and a one-out double by Buxton put men on second and third. Mitch Garver then singled home a run and a sacrifice fly made it 2-0 Twins. With two out in the fourth, Marwin Gonzalez singled and Sano followed with a run-scoring double to make it 3-0.
The Twins had a big inning in the fourth. Buxton had a one-out single and advanced to third on a stolen base-plus-error. Garver was hit by a pitch and Polanco had an RBI single. A ground out moved the runners to second and third and Eddie Rosario walked to load the bases. C. J. Cron unloaded them with a three-run double to give the Twins a 7-0 lead.
It looked like the Twins were in control, and they were as long as Odorizzi was pitching. He came out after six, however, and in the seventh the Rays got back into the game. Willy Adames and Choi singled to start the inning. With one out, Kevin Kiermeier drove in a run with a single and a hit batsman loaded the bases. A strikeout gave hope that the Twins might get out of the inning, but Meadows had a two-run single, Yandy Diaz walked, and Lowe had a two-run single to cut the Twins' lead to 7-5.
The Twins got two back in the top of the eighth. With two out, Sano doubled and Schoop hit a two-run homer to make it 9-5 and again give the Twins a seemingly secure lead. But the Rays got back into it again, as Choi walked leading off the bottom of the eighth and Arroyo hit a two-run homer to cut the lead to 9-7. That was all the would get, though, as Rogers came in to strike out the side in the ninth and preserve the Twins' victory.
WP: Odorizzi (8-2). LP: Ryan Yarbrough (4-2). S: Rogers (5).
Notes: Gonzalez was in right field, with Max Kepler on the bench. Willians Astudillo was the DH.
Polanco raised his average to .338. Garver returned to the lineup and went 1-for-4, making his average .325. Odorizzi's ERA is 1.96. Blake Parker allowed two runs in 1.1 innings to raise his ERA to 2.61. Rogers has an ERA of 2.06.
The bullpen meltdown was discouraging, of course. Still, it should be pointed out that most of the damage came of Matt Magill, who would probably not have been in the game had the score been closer. Magill has been pitching quite well, though, and almost everyone has a bad game once in a while. It's the second poor outing out of three for Parker, but to his credit he did get the side out in order after giving up the two-run homer. It is obviously easier to be forgiving about all this when the Twins win, but even though a lot of them have pitched pretty well I don't think anyone looks at this as a lockdown bullpen.
I like Cory Provus, but for some reason this year he seems to go on and on talking about "momentum". When the Twins were ahead 7-0, they had momentum. Then the Rays scored five in the seventh and they had momentum. Then the Twins got a two-run homer in the eighth and they had momentum. Then the Rays got a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth and they had momentum. Confidence and enthusiasm are important in sports, of course, but it appears that the best way to acquire momentum in baseball is to bat well, pitch well, and field well, and the best way to stop the other team's momentum is to bat well, pitch well, and field well. If you consistently do those things, momentum will probably take care of itself.
So, this team that supposedly can only beat up on bad teams took three out of four from Tampa Bay on the road. After a day off, they go to Cleveland for a three-game series which it would appear is much more important to the Indians than it is for the Twins. The Twins currently lead Cleveland by 11.5 games. A Cleveland sweep would make us all unhappy, but the Twins would still have a comfortable lead. If the Twins sweep, or even take two out of three, the Indians might be done. As it stands now Cleveland is tied for second with Chicago, and when all is said and done it may be that the White Sox will be our toughest competition. There's still a lot of season to go, however, so we shall see.
Record: The Twins are 40-18, first in the American League Central, 11.5 games ahead of Cleveland.
Projected record: We're still on track for 144-18!