While the Twins offense poured it on the Mariners yesterday in completing a sweep at the Metrodome, a persisting issue was painfully clear amidst the victory that should be discussed before any other topics: the bullpen.
After Glen Perkins gave up three home runs in the sixth inning, which in and of itself was a disappointment, Boof Bonser came in the game for the seventh, only to promptly serve up three hits and two runs, including a Raul Ibanez RBI double. (Ibanez, by the way, has destroyed Twins pitching this year, at a 13-for-19 clip, with two doubles, two home runs, and 12 RBI.) Bonser was replaced by Matt Guerrier in the eight, who continued his trek to completely unreliable, getting only one out while giving up one hit, two runs, and two walks. Guerrier's ERA now stands at an ugly 4.94, having given up a shocking 12 earned runs in just 5 1/3 August innings and 15 earned runs in 11 post-All Star break innings.
If any one particular member of the bullpen stands out in terms of the current obvious issues, it's Guerrier. But the bullpen's failings didn't stop with Guerrier last night, as Dennys Reyes came in and allowed an inherited runner to score with some help from Brendan Harris' mediocre arm. Of course, once Joe Nathan came in with the bases loaded, the fire was finally put out with a strikeout of Adrian Beltre. Nathan completed a scoreless ninth for his 33rd save, but his dominance is practically a given at this point. Unfortunately, it seems that he is also the only known quantity right now.
Needless to say, the bullpen allowing a 10-4 lead to quickly shrink to 10-8 speaks volumes about the principle issue for the Twins right now. We have often pointed this out on this blog, but it is a persisting issue that cannot be ignored when the problem is slapping the team in the face. Thankfully, the offense was out in full force against a terrible Mariners pitching staff.
The duo of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau powered the lineup over the weekend sweep, going a combined 9-for-22 with two home runs, six walks, eight runs scored, and eight RBI. Now, while Mauer and Morneau's offensive dominance is expected by most Twins fans, we may have lost the biggest offensive star of the weekend in the wake: Jason Kubel. Kubel went 8-for-10 with six RBI, one home run, two doubles, and five runs scored, raising his line to .278/.339/.486.
With high expectations over the years, sometimes Kubel's offensive production has been minimized, but enough cannot be said about a .486 SLG from a Twins hitter not named Mauer or Morneau with the majority of his at-bats coming at the DH position. An .825 OPS is not only impressive for a Twin, but is even more impressive given how offense is down throughout the major leagues.
Granted, the Twins should beat up on what might be the worst team in the majors, but beating up on the Mariners also meant that the Twins managed to tie with the White Sox for first place and stay there. The offensive output was certainly positive, but fans should keep in mind that the persisting bullpen issues haven't even gone away in wins and may remain the major obstacle to the Twins post-season chances.