Twins' late-game magic finally runs out

Bullpen crumbles uncharacteristically in loss to Tigers

September 7th, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS -- , and all took in most of Sunday’s game from the bench. Naturally, the Minnesota offense had its best showing of the series anyway.

The Twins’ reserve contributors again stepped up on Sunday as the club maintained its winning ways in the absence of some important hitters. This time, , and led the way with two RBIs apiece as a lineup full of backups strung together good at-bats and batted around in a four-run fifth. Still, a rare off-day from the entire bullpen led to a 10-8 loss to the Tigers at Target Field, snapping a five-game winning streak.

led the Twins with three hits and a run, while , and each had two knocks. Arraez hit an RBI double and scored two runs in his first game since Sept. 2 due to soreness in his left knee. Rosario’s strong day at the plate was otherwise blemished when he was thrown out at home plate after running through a stop sign, and he didn’t make a play according to the ground rules in left field on a late Tigers hit that eventually led to two runs.

“We gave ourselves a chance, and even the cushion that we talk about always wanting,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “But you can never have enough runs, and tonight wasn’t our night or our day as a whole with the guys that we brought in from the 'pen.”

Despite the Twins’ highest run output against the Tigers this season, the high-leverage core of the bullpen couldn’t hold a four-run lead. It wasn’t just one pitcher feeling off, either; Baldelli had no real explanation for how reliever after reliever got hit hard by Detroit.

allowed three runs on four hits in the sixth inning, coughed up three more hits and two runs in the seventh as the Tigers tied the game, and Grayson Greiner’s solo shot off of in the eighth opened the floodgates.

“I had that thought; I’m like, ‘This is fairly unusual to see our guys go out there and all come in and just maybe not be as sharp, maybe not command the ball as well, but also giving up some hard-hit balls, too,’” Baldelli said. “No, I don’t have anything to point to to say, ‘This is why as a group we didn’t come out and throw the ball the way we normally would.’ But I have no doubt we’ll stick with our plan.”

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Minnesota entered the game with the fourth-best bullpen ERA in the American League, but things quickly spiraled out of control in the chaotic late innings, during which the Twins scored in the fifth, sixth and eighth, while the Tigers tacked on runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth. Detroit had at least one hit in every inning until the ninth.

Duffey and starter , who allowed two runs in five innings, felt that the Tigers’ recent familiarity with the Twins’ pitching staff might have played a factor, especially as the Twins emptied the bullpen in a pair of doubleheaders against Detroit over the last week.

“Any time guys get to see certain pitchers over the course of a short period -- and we've seen it quite a bit early on with Kansas City, where we have these back-to-back series and guys get to kind of see the same pitchers over and over again, it's something that usually in a regular season kind of gets spread out,” Hill said. “Maybe as a hitter, you kind of lose track of certain arm slots or kinds of pitches that are coming out.”

Whatever the case, Baldelli and his relievers will simply accept the collective off-day as an oddity and move on.

"That's the good thing -- we all know that today was the anomaly,” Duffey said. “I think we come back tomorrow. ... I don't think it changes, approach-wise.

“Baseball is a crazy game sometimes, and today was a great example. Every guy that came in seemed to give up something, whether you wanted to or not. It was just going to happen. Come in tomorrow, same approach, don't change anything. Keep executing. Things will work out if you keep your head on straight and keep waiting."