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Rogers, Romo nowhere to be found in big spots

@RhettBollinger
October 5, 2019

NEW YORK -- It wasn’t supposed to work out this way. After the Twins decided not to use their main relief options Friday in their Game 1 loss to the Yankees in the American League Division Series, they were hopeful they’d be able to turn to key reliever Sergio Romo

NEW YORK -- It wasn’t supposed to work out this way.

After the Twins decided not to use their main relief options Friday in their Game 1 loss to the Yankees in the American League Division Series, they were hopeful they’d be able to turn to key reliever Sergio Romo and closer Taylor Rogers in big moments in Game 2 on Saturday. But Rogers again didn’t pitch and Romo didn’t appear until the eighth inning of an 8-2 loss to New York that saw Minnesota allow seven runs in the third inning. Now the Twins head home in an 0-2 hole without yet using Rogers, their best reliever, in the series.

ALDS presented by Doosan, Game 3: Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET/7:30 CT on FS1

"It's something that's frustrating but something that you may not be able to help," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "It's really a situation where, when you're looking at your high-leverage relievers, guys that you know you want to get in the game and spots where you have a chance to win, sometimes the games just don't play out that way."

Minnesota started rookie Randy Dobnak in Game 2, but he lasted just two-plus innings, exiting with the bases loaded and nobody out in the third. With right-handers Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres and Gary Sánchez coming up, Baldelli went with right-hander Tyler Duffey instead of Romo. Duffey had posted a 0.73 ERA over his final 27 appearances of the season -- tallying 42 strikeouts in 24 2/3 innings -- but had thrown 25 pressure-packed pitches on Friday, allowing a critical two-run double to Torres in that outing.

Game Date Result Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 4 NYY 10, MIN 4 Watch
Gm 2 Oct. 5 NYY 8, MIN 2 Watch
Gm 3 Oct. 7 NYY 5, MIN 1 Watch

Duffey struggled again, allowing a run to score on a sacrifice fly from Stanton before the wheels fell off, surrendering an RBI single to Torres, hitting Sanchez with a pitch to reload the bases and subsequently allowing a game-changing grand slam to Didi Gregorius. But count Rogers among those who believe going to Duffey was the right move, especially considering his run of success dating back to late July.

“Duffey in that situation, we’ll take that all day,” Rogers said. “He’s done that plenty of times this season and has done well. It’s just the way the ball fell today. But if a similar situation happens on Monday, I’m more than confident with Duffey in there.”

Baldelli said he wasn’t willing to go to his back-end relievers that early in the game.

“As far as that spot right there, whoever we bring in to finish out that inning, and it would have taken a lot of effort to get through that inning, we would have needed all of those other pitchers that we're kind of referencing here to keep pitching,” Baldelli said. “It wouldn't have been enough to just get three outs in that spot and just kind of end your night. Probably would have needed four outs, five outs, maybe six outs from some of those guys.”

Baldelli added that the only time he considered using Rogers or Romo in a high-leverage situation was in the fifth inning on Friday, when the game was tied at 3. But instead he went to rookie Zack Littell, who walked two batters -- both of whom came around to score on Torres’ double against Duffey.

“That would have been our only chance to really use them,” Baldelli said. “But I don't really look at it like that. I don't really hold ourselves to that. I think we've kind of gone about our business one way the entire year. We're going to trust that we can get to those spots where we can use the Rogers and the Romos and the [Trevor] Mays and the Duffeys and use them in the proper spots. You would love to have them in the game. It just hasn't played out that way.”

So while Baldelli has stuck to his process that helped the Twins win 101 games this year, Rogers has taken in the series from the bullpen despite his 90 strikeouts in 69 innings and his 30 saves. Rogers, though, is optimistic things will get better once Minnesota gets back to Target Field.

“It’s tough,” Rogers said. “Just feeling like you can’t help a little bit. You want to help the ballclub and contribute. But it’ll be fine. It’ll be a breath of fresh air going home. We’ve won three games in a row a lot this year. You just try to keep only positive things in your mind.”

Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.