Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Holding Their Own

On August 4, the Twins built an early six-run lead against the Mariners, only to watch their opponents score 10 times in the seventh inning to take an 11-6 lead, which ended up being the final score in a disappointing loss. Since that game, the Twins have gone 15-10. That's pretty good. A lot of those wins have been lopsided, but that certainly has not seemed to be the case with the losses, has it?

Let's take a closer look at each of those 10 losses...

Aug. 5: 8-7 loss to Mariners
The Twins led 7-6 entering the bottom of the eighth inning before the Mariners rallied for a pair of runs against Matt Guerrier and Joe Nathan to take the lead.

Aug. 10: 5-4 loss to Royals
The Twins led 4-2 entering the bottom of the eighth inning before the Royals rallied for a pair of runs against Guerrier and Dennys Reyes to tie the game. The Royals eventually won in the 12th inning on a Tony Pena RBI single off Craig Breslow.

Aug. 12: 9-6 loss to Yankees
Twins trail late, but get a big three-run homer from Delmon Young in the bottom of the eighth to tie the game and send it to extra innings. Eventually the Yankees to Guerrier in the 12th inning with a pair of homers.

Aug. 18: 3-2 loss to Athletics
Twins trail 3-0 in the eighth inning, but cut the deficit down to one when Joe Mauer hits an RBI triple and scores on a throwing error. Unfortunately the Twins' rally ends there and they come up a run short.

Aug. 23: 7-5 loss to Angels
Twins fall behind 6-1 early on, but battle back with a four-run fifth inning to close the gap to one. Once again, their rally comes short and the Angels add another run to claim a two-run victory.

Aug. 24: 5-3 loss to Angels
Twins claim early 3-0 lead, but the Angels score five unanswered runs over their final three innings, three of those against the Twins' bullpen.

Aug. 25: 4-2 loss to Mariners
Twins lead 2-1 entering the bottom of the ninth, but the Mariners rally for a run against Joe Nathan to tie the game and eventually win on Adrian Beltre's 11th-inning two-run homer off Jesse Crain.

Aug. 26: 3-2 loss to Mariners
Twins fall behind by two runs early on, but battle back to tie the game in the sixth, only to have Scott Baker give away the lead in the next half inning. Mariners hold on to win by a run.

Aug. 28: 3-2 loss to Athletics
Game is tied at 2-2 entering bottom of the ninth, but the A's are able to manufacture a game-winning run against Breslow and Crain.

Aug. 30: 3-2 loss to Athletics
Twins lead 2-1 entering bottom of the ninth, but the A's put a pair of runners on against Nathan with no outs. When Ryan Sweeney tries to bunt the runners over, Nathan attempts a throw to third that sails into left field, allowing both runs to score and giving the A's a win.

So what do these losses tell us? Well, obviously, we see that the bullpen has a lost a LOT of games for the Twins this month. If the relievers had done a remotely decent job of protecting slim leads, the Twins could have easily won several more games, which would perhaps put them in the driver's seat in the AL Central.

But let's look past the negatives. Without exception, each of these losses has come in an exceptionally close game. That's a 25-game stretch -- nearly a full month -- without ONE SINGLE decisive loss. While the competition hasn't usually been great, the Twins have not been totally outplayed on a single occasion since August 4. That's truly impressive.

What we also see is that even when the Twins have lost, they have been receiving great performances from their starting pitchers. In only two of these 10 games did a starting pitcher receive a loss, and in both instances that pitcher still delivered a Quality Start.

The bullpen is obviously a big issue, and if the past 25 games are any indication, it's really the only thing holding the Twins back from being an unstoppable winning machine. Hopefully the addition of September call-ups Philip Humber, Bobby Korecky and Jose Mijares can ease the load for this relief corps and make the Twins' bullpen more effective overall. If that happens, and the rest of the team can play the same way in September that they did in August, there's no way the White Sox will be able to keep pace.

4 comments:

neckrolls said...

In all fairness to Dennys Reyes, the Royals tied the game on August 10th because Adam Everett sailed a routine throw to first that should have been the last out. Poor defense has been as big a factor in several of the losses (Nathan's 2 blown saves this week, the 3 extra outs the Angels got in their big inning of the 7-5 game) as poor pitching.

But your point is well taken. I'm hoping the new members of the bullpen will be solid. Or that the starters all go 8 innings every game.

MVB said...

Interesting review. I definitely think 5 of those 10 losses should have been W's.

Bullpen collapses happen to all teams, but even just 4 of those 5 would give us a huge lead I agree with you.... put us in the AL central driver's seat. Frustrating, yet encouraging!

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