Tuesday’s horrific Twins loss was not about Jorge Polanco, or Marwin Gonzalez, or Sergio Romo, or Tyler Duffey, or a lack of hitting, including 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. After all, the Twins scored the first run of the game.
But it was about faith, or in this case, the lack of faith shown by Twins manager Rocco Baldelli and the incredible amount of faith shown by Houston manager, Dusty Baker. Some will argue that Baker showed no faith in starter Zack Greinke, but Greinke also served up one run, so it made sense to lift him early.
It was the next pitcher that Baker called on who produced a study in contrasts between the veteran Houston manager and the relatively new manager for the Twins.
Houston reliever Framber Valdez could have pitched one inning and Baker could have continued to empty his bullpen to keep the Twins lineup off balance. That’s the modern-day conventional wisdom, I suppose. Instead, he stuck with Valdez who proceeded to pitch five shutout innings.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because Twins starter, Kenta Maeda, did the same: five shutout innings in which he allowed only two hits. Yet Baldelli lifted him after 91 pitches, and that was a mistake. None of this probably makes sense in the world of baseball analytics, but there are times, particularly in the playoffs, when it pays to stick with the hot hand. I’m certain Maeda could have pitched another inning or two, and then Baldelli wouldn’t have needed five relievers. Instead of using Trevor May, Duffey, Taylor Rogers, Romo and Caleb Thielbar, who had to get the third out with the bases loaded, perhaps Baldelli uses only May and Rogers and the Twins emerge with a 1-0 victory and not a 4-1 loss.
Jose Berrios gets the ball on Wednesday. Boy, does he need to pitch the game of his life.
-Some aspects of Tuesday’s game were beyond the Twins’ control, like home plate umpire, D.J. Reyburn. As noted repeatedly by the ABC broadcast crew of Karl Ravech, Eduardo Perez and Tim Kurkjian, Reyburn’s strike zone was all over the place. Anything outside seemed to be called for strikes, which I think forced Twins hitters to swing early at bad pitches, and yet Twins pitchers couldn’t establish strikes on the corners.
-Twins fans exploded in anger on social media as the game began to unravel. How badly do the Twins need to win the next game? Bad. Real bad.
-Leave it to 40-year-old Nelson Cruz to show the Twins how it’s done. Cruz hit an RBI double to score the only run in the game.