September 3, 2018

Twins’ experiment with ‘opener’ strategy goes horribly wrong in Texas

Taking a page from the Tampa Bay Rays, the Twins employed an “opener” strategy on Sunday, in which a series of relievers pitches the game instead of a traditional starting pitcher. The theory behind it is that once the starting reliever or closer has faced the toughest part of the batting order, the “primary pitcher” will be on better footing by facing the weakest part of the batting order.

But none of that went as planned on Sunday after the Texas Rangers, like a Spindletop gusher, blasted the Twins for 18 runs on 19 hits. How bad was it? The Rangers had 13 extra-base hits: six home runs, one triple and six doubles.

Every Twins reliever was tagged with an earned run, and things got testy, which led to the Twins’ Matt Belisle and Addison Reed being ejected from the game.

In the end, with the team well behind, manager Paul Molitor gave the ball to backup catcher Chris Gimenez, who didn’t help matters by giving up five earned runs in 29 pitches. In addition to giving up two home runs, Gimenez also hit a home run for the Twins in the ninth inning.

Molitor on the game:

“It didn’t go great in the fact that we gave up a two-run homer in the first,” Molitor told MLB.com. “We got a nice job from Zack (Littell) for the most part. He threw the ball well and got us into the middle innings at least. And things just fell apart.”

And it doesn’t get any easier for the Twins, who now head to Houston to take on the Astros.

Kyle Gibson gets the ball Monday.

Extra innings…

-So why bother with the “opener” strategy? Well, the Rays have the third best team ERA in the American League.

COMMENTS

Hi, I’m Rolf Boone and I love the Twins.

I became a fan of the Minnesota Twins after a friendly wager in the early 1980s. I survived Ron Davis, the meltdown in Cleveland, Phil Bradley at the Kingdome and then marveled at a rising generation of stars and two World Series wins in 1987 and 1991. Brad Radke made the 1990s bearable, while Kirby Puckett’s eye injury, exit from the game and eventual death made it almost too much to bear. The new century ushered in more talent — Joe Mauer, Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau — and consecutive seasons of playoff baseball, followed by consecutive seasons of losing baseball. A winning season returned in 2015. So here we are. Go Twins.