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Where Did It All Go Wrong?

Posted by Ted Schwerzler , 04 October 2017 · 745 views

Brian Dozier ambushed a 23 year old starter in over his head on Tuesday night in the Bronx. As the first batter of the game, the Minnesota Twins second basemen sent a towering pop up into the left field bleachers. A feat only possible in the Cracker Jack box that is Yankee Stadium, the good guys jumped to an early lead. After an Eddie Rosario homer, the Twins had staked themselves to a three run lead in the first inning, and then the end came.

There's really no point in rehashing what took place in the one-game Wild Card for the Twins. You lived it, I lived it, and we find ourselves here, with another loss to the dreaded Yankees. A recap serves little purpose in this space, but instead, let's take a look at where it all went wrong:

Squandered Opportunity

Following the three-run lead, which was nice enough, Minnesota failed to tack on. After knocking Severino out of the game recording just one out, the Twins left runners on second and third with neither of them scoring. Over the course of the game as a whole, hitting with runners in scoring position was a problem for the Twins. Tacking on runs against a strong Yankees lineup was a must going into the contest, and it was a place the club consistently fell short.

Veteran Presence

In the lead up to the game, I suggested numerous times that Severino was a welcomed foe due to his age. At 23, that was a huge moment, and the Twins capitalized off of that fact. What wasn't anticipated, is that Ervin Santana would crumble as well. Despite being a big league vet, he pitched scared and failed to attack any opposing batters. While his slider was anything but sharp, he nibbled for the entirety of the two innings he gave Minnesota.

Needing to respond to his team's hot start with a zero, Santana promptly coughed up the lead in the bottom half of the inning. Allowing Yankee hitters to take him deep in counts, Santana's first went walk, single, pop out, home run. Across 64 pitches, Santana threw just 35 strikes. There was an unshakeable feeling of a guy on the mound pitching scared. Despite having a lead, Santana refused to attack opposing hitters, and New York had their way with him dictating at bats. It was as bad of a performance as we've seen from Santana in years.

Lineup Black Hole

Over the second half of the season, the Twins have been among the best run scoring teams in baseball. That's true in part because they've consistently had a next man up attitude, and put forth solid at bats to keep the line moving. At the bottom of the lineup, that couldn't have been further from the truth during the Wild Card game.

In their seven combined at bats, both Jason Castro and Robbie Grossman gave the Twins zero competitive offerings. Castro flailed at three strikeout pitches out of the zone, while Grossman whiffed three times on his own. Neither is an offensive juggernaut, but the former should be expected to battle, while the latter's greatest asset is his on-base prowess. Each time they stepped in the box, both Castro and Grossman were nonexistent for Minnesota.

Judge Rises

Before the game, I opined that two things needed to happen for the Twins to win this game. Severino needed to leave with New York trailing, and Aaron Judge could not go deep. Minnesota took care of the first half, but Jose Berrios allowed Judge to make his mark.

While it's maybe not fair to say they lose if Judge homers, the momentum swing that carries with it does Paul Molitor's squad no favors. In reality, the three-run homer was back breaking, but even if it had been a one-run shot in the first, Judge brings out the crazy in that stadium. The crowd definitely rides the wave of each Aaron Judge at bat, and letting them have that moment was never going to be a winning proposition.

There's a few other things to nitpick at. I wasn't a fan of Molitor removing Santana in the 3rd inning. Having settled down some, I would've seen what he could give you, at least until a runner reach, in the next frame. That being said however, the Twins did themselves no favors to keep this game in check. After taking the bull by the horns, they promptly allowed it to walk away.

While veterans like Santana, Castro, and Grossman failed to help the home nine on this night, it was some of the youngsters in the lineup that came up biggest. Going into 2018, this team will continue to turn over to it's rising stars, and continuing to pair them with other big league talent should only pay dividends.

Tuesday night in New York was a sad, but all too often realized, way to end what was a great 2017 season. With the book closed here though, it's time to begin writing a new story.

For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz

It also appeared that the strike zone was a bit tight (for both sides). Santana should've adjusted and thrived. I wouldn't have thrown Berrios out there right away (bring in a lefty first) or just go with one-inning wonders for the rest of the game. Don't have Hildenberger start a second inning. Overall, pitching won out. The Yankees have the hard throwers we have only dramed about having in the system