Lately on this blog, we have had many posts discussing the numerous problems with bullpen, as well as small sample sizes as a means of assessment. I am certainly one who subscribes to the notion that you can't take too much out of a small sample size, because there is probably too much chance involved to be sure if the success you are seeing is truly sustainable.
At the same time, there can be nothing wrong with basking in the glow of immediate returns in short term as long as the basic principles of sustainability are kept in the background. With that in mind, its fairly certain that the MVP of last night's game was the Twins bullpen, which kept a close game going long enough for the Twins to get the insurance they needed to pull out a 6-5 victory that brought them within a 1/2 game of the Pale Hosers.
Jesse Crain, Dennys Reyes, Matt Guerrier, and Joe Nathan combined for three innings of solid relief work that -- while not dominating -- was effective. With two strikeouts via Guerrier, three hits allowed, and only one walk, the bullpen earned three "holds" and a save, despite the solo home run that Nathan allowed to Nick Swisher to bring the game within a run in the ninth. With so much negativity surrounding the bullpen situation lately, it felt almost necessary to give the unit its due when it did its job in preserving an important Twins lead and playing a significant role in a victory.
Of course, the bullpen was not the only player in the victory, as Glen Perkins did manage to battle through six innings to pick up his eighth victory, even though he was not terribly effective as shown by the nine base-runners he allowed. The offense was also not fantastic, despite scoring six runs, as they only had nine hits -- only one for extra-bases -- to go with two walks, but they made up for this deficit the way they have most of the year with an incredible five two-out RBI, two from Joe Mauer and three from Justin Morneau on a key three-run double in the fifth.
Tonight, the Twins face perhaps their biggest challenge of the series in Gavin Floyd. Floyd has gotten fairly lucky this year, with a very unimpressive 85/53 K/BB ratio (though he does have 10 wins, so there is no doubt his success is sustainable), a 4.95 FIP, a 4.76 xFIP, and a 4.80 RA that does not scream dominance by most standards, despite having only allowed 100 hits in 123 innings, but rather an extreme amount of luck. Nonetheless, the Twins have struggled against him this year, only managing to put up six runs and twelve hits in 21 1/3 innings so far this year. Of course, given these statistics, luck may finally show up on the Twins side and if that is the case, they could be divisional leaders by the end of the night.