We’ve been talking a lot about the bullpen, and its repeated failures. But those failures are totally meaningless if the starters are awful … and lately, the starters have been awful.
It’s demoralizing for Slowey and Blackburn to have a good-to-great start erased by the bullpen late in the game. But what can the team do if the starter blows up early? In two of our last three games, the Twins’ offense took a 2-0 lead, followed immediately by the starter losing that lead in the next half inning; in both cases, the lead was gone before an out was recorded, and the scoring didn’t stop there.
On Monday, Perkins lasted only two outs, turning a 2-0 lead into a 6-2 deficit before handing the ball over to Dickey and heading off to the DL. On Wednesday, Liriano worked around his command issues through three innings, before the Twins took a 2-0 lead in the top of the fourth. Liriano quickly gave up 7 runs in the bottom of the fourth, and was done for the day, handing the ball over to Ayala.
In both cases the bullpen did a stellar job, holding the Yankees to 1 additional run (in 7.1 IP) on Monday and 0 additional runs (in 4 IP) on Wednesday. Dickey looked good, and while Ayala gave up what ended being the deciding run in a 7-6 loss on Monday, he actually looked good on Wednesday in 3 dominant and scoreless innings.
I don’t know if it was the roster move that basically told them “we’re willing to lose you on waivers if you don’t shape up, and you’re next,” or if Ayala and Dickey just prefer to pitch in blowout losses where the outs aren’t important. We’ll see as time goes on.
But if Perkins doesn’t come back healthy and looking good, and if Baker continues to pitch with his new wallet in his pocket, and if Liriano doesn’t re-discover how to command his fastball … it’s not really going to matter if good starts by Slowey and Blackburn are wasted. The Twins are not going to be winning any ballgames.
Frankly, it seems like these are all mental issues. As soon as the Twins take a lead, the starter gives it away. As soon as a baserunner reaches, there’s an immediate danger of a big inning, because the pitchers are letting everything that happens get to them. If Rick Anderson and Gardy had some sort of tricks in the past that helped with this stuff, it’s not working any more.
It’s not that early any more. It’s time to start playing ball.1 comment