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Guardians 11, Twins 10: Another Bullpen Meltdown Wastes a Great Offensive Night


Twins Daily Contributor

In a wild back-and-forth battle, the Twins hit four home runs and scored ten runs, but that wasn’t enough. It was a tough evening for Minnesota on the mound, as Cleveland homered three times and rallied for four runs in the ninth to take the series victory.

Box Score
Starting Pitcher: Sonny Gray, 4.0 IP, 8H, 4R, 3ER, 0BB, 4K (85 pitches, 59 strikes, 69.4%)
Home Runs: Carlos Correa, 2 (7), Max Kepler (7), Gio Urshela (6)
Bottom 3 WPA: Jharel Cotton (-.476), Griffin Jax (-.453), Emilio Pagan (-.285)
Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs)
1826022672_chart(1).png.65d13236a578137039e9ee5c91a4d74f.png

With four combined runs scored by both teams in the first three innings, this game was off to a busy start. The Twins offense went off very early, with Carlos Correa hitting a solo home run in the game’s second at-bat. Then, in the second inning, Minnesota added another run after Gio Urshela and Trevor Larnach hit back-to-back singles, allowing Ryan Jeffers to push Urshela across the plate with a double on a liner to deep left.

Cleveland nearly gained some momentum at the top of the third. Sonny Gray had retired seven of the first eight batters he faced, including a stretch of six consecutive. But Myles Straw hit a one-out double shortly before Steven Kwan hit an RBI triple to bring him home, cut the Twins’ lead in half, and still pose a threat at third base. Despite the two extra-base hits, Gray was able to cool down and retire the next two batters to end the inning.

The Twins' response was quick, as Correa saw three pitches to lead off the bottom of the third and crushed his second dinger of the night, making it 3-1 for Minnesota. This was Correa’s first multi-home run game of the season, the 11th in his career. Following the home run, Max Kepler drew a walk, but the Twins couldn’t take advantage and settled for the one run.

Twins extend the lead to four, but Gray can’t hold on to it
Minnesota was able to extend their lead a bit more in the bottom of the fourth inning after Gray delivered another scoreless frame. Urshela led off the inning with a hustle triple that Straw couldn’t field. Jeffers followed him with a pretty RBI bunt that Guardians starter Triston McKenzie couldn’t glove, scoring Minnesota’s fourth run.

Jeffers himself got to third base on a Nick Gordon single. Batting next, Luis Arraez, a career 0-for-9 against McKenzie, couldn’t get his first hit against the Cleveland starter, but he hit a sac-fly deep enough to bring Jeffers home, making it 5-1 for Minnesota.

After four solid innings from Gray, the Cleveland offense started a rally in the fifth and jumped right back in this game. Austin Hedges hit a leadoff home run to cut the lead down to three. Then, Straw, Kwan, and Amed Rosario hit three consecutive singles off Gray, adding another run and ending his start.

Gray departed the game leaving two runners on and no outs for Caleb Thielbar. Kwan scored from third on a one-out balk from Thielbar, making it a one-run game, but the Twins’ reliever managed to strike out the next two batters to brilliantly get out of an inherited jam and put an end to the Cleveland (first) rally.

Cleveland rallies again, snatches the lead for the first time
The long ball continued to work for the Twins, as they hit their third home run of the night. Kepler punished McKenzie’s second pitch of the fifth inning to hit a leadoff dong that gave Minnesota some breathing room. 

Thielbar and Joe Smith combined to pitch a scoreless sixth, but it wasn’t without a fight from the Guardians, who managed to produce a couple of baserunners before Smith could get the final two outs. For the first time in the game, in the bottom of the sixth, the offense didn’t score a run and that would prove costly later on.

Jharel Cotton took the mound in the seventh and after three consecutive scoreless appearances (including one last night), he was ambushed, allowing Cleveland to take the lead for the first time in the game. Rosario hit a leadoff home run to cut the Twins' lead down to one, then, shortly after José Ramírez was hit by a pitch, Oscar González hit a two-run bomb to left, making it 7-6 for Cleveland.

Twins rally back for four runs in the seventh, but the bullpen blows the lead in the ninth
The Twins offense didn’t score in the sixth when Minnesota had a two-run lead, but they did when it mattered the most. Relievers Anthony Gose and Anthony Castro needed only six pitches to get the first two outs in the bottom of the seventh. But Minnesota’s bats weren’t done.

Kepler drew his second walk of the night, then moved to third on a Gary Sanchez single. A mound visit didn’t help Castro, as he gave up a game-tying RBI single to Alex Kirilloff, who ended up on second after Sánchez hustled to third, nearly getting tagged by Ramírez. With a tied ballgame, Urshela gave the Twins some much-needed insurance by hitting a three-run bomb to center.

Emilio Pagan was trying to redeem himself from the rough outing he had the night before when he blew the lead by giving up a game-tying two-run home run in the eighth. Tonight, he flawlessly struck out the side in the eighth, protecting the Twins’ lead. However, as he was brought back for the ninth, things got ugly for him. Rosario, Ramírez, and Josh Naylor got three consecutive hits against him to open the inning – the latter an RBI double to make it 10-8 Minnesota.

Rocco Baldelli removed Pagán from the game immediately, bringing Griffin Jax into the game. With no outs and with runners on second and third, Jax got ahead in the count against González, but a bloop single to center was enough to score both runners. González advanced to third on a sac bunt and scored right after that on an Owen Miller sac-fly that gave the Guardians the lead, 11-10. A 1-2-3 effort by reliever Emmanuel Clase secured the win for the Guardians at the bottom of the ninth.

What’s Next?
Tomorrow at 12:10 pm CDT these two teams get back on the field with Minnesota trying to prevent a series sweep. The Twins turn to Devin Smeltzer (3.52 ERA) to start the game, while Cleveland brings Zach Plesac (4.41 ERA) to the mound.

Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet

  SAT SUN MON TUE WED TOT
             
Jax 0 16 0 27 7 50
Cotton 10 0 0 11 28 49
Thielbar 0 31 0 0 15 46
Pagán 0 0 0 17 24 41
Duran 0 0 0 27 0 27
Duffey 0 25 0 0 0 25
Smith 0 0 0 0 21 21
Thornburg 0 0 0 0 0 0
 

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The highs and lows during this game was crazy. Really disappointing that 10 runs wasn’t enough to win. Even more disappointing that the bullpen gave up 7 runs from the 7th inning on. 

I still hold the belief that Cleveland is playing extremely lucky baseball and it’s not going to last throughout the summer. It will all even out. The question is, can we cobble together a bullpen internally and keep the ship from sinking over the next month? 

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Someone has to explain how there wasn’t a reliever up and ready to come in to the game for that 9th inning before pagan was able to face 3 guys. It’s inexcusable. Really, with the tendency to have a quick hook on guys, I’m beyond befuddled that Rocco went into that 9th inning without having somebody ready.

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I know the bullpen is the big story and it's not a surprise that they're lousy. They have been bad all year and every night I listen to the announcers tell how we've given up more home runs than any other bullpen. It's a real story to me is how Cleveland plays the game. Don't strike out like we did in the extra innings last night, make contact. Sacrifice flies moving the runners and playing the way baseball has been played for decades instead of swinging for the fences is a valuable and successful formula.

I know we scored enough runs to win tonight, but even with that I was just enthralled by how Cleveland approached each inning and continued to put pressure on us and our mediocre bullpen

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Well........I stated last nights loss was a gut punch.  It absolutely was.  

This final result was the equivalent to a Sean Michael's "sweet chin music" kick delivered to the groin.

Easy to place blame on the main culprits....Cotton & Pagan, but I instead will focus my thoughts on 2 others:

#1 Sonny Gray:  Coming out for the 5th inning with a 5-1 lead facing the BOTTOM of the order, you'd think Gray would be able to execute his pitches--even with a climbing pitch count---to save the bullpen. That was soon lost as Gray served up a HR to Hedges (hitting in .160s) which was followed by 3 straight singles.  Gray has GOT TO BE BETTER.  Plain and simple.

#2  Falvey/Levine:  Know this is about baseball, but have to invoke the Bill Parcells line from years ago:

"If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they should let you shop for some of the groceries"

As much as I've placed A LOT of BLAME (deservedly so) on Baldelli for his questionable bullpen decisions this year, I can't fault him tonight for bringing Pagan back for the 9th as he struck out the side in the 8th.

Who else was available?  Not Duran after throwing 2 innings last night and 27 pitches.  Not Thornburg, And for sure---NOT Duffey.

So Thad and Derrick----what are you WAITING for???   This team,,,,,your coaches and your manager are BEGGING for help.  This bullpen---especially earlier in the season------did quite well when (a long time ago) they were fresh.  They are running on fumes now.  Don't you see that?  Other than the addition of Joe Smith in the offseason you did NOTHING do improve this pen.  Now is the TIME ---not waiting till August 2nd----to upgrade this bullpen!!!  A minimum of 2 RPs---1 LH...1 RH are needed now!  

Yes, the price might some prospects, but this team has demonstrated the aptitude and guts to be play meaningful games in September,  

Its time for you two to STEP UP and show Rocco, your coaches, and your players that you have their back.  There are RPs throughout the league on BAD teams (PIT-TX-AZ-OAK and others) that can help this team immediately.  Its your responsibility to everyone listed above as well as your loyal fans to get this done NOW!!  Failing to act is nothing more than a complete dereliction of your duties.

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Pagan is a little like a roulette wheel. Stupid to play at all, but if you must, then bet once, and if you win, then get the hell out. Go buy a nice dinner on the house. 

Instead, Rocco bet twice on Pagan, and wound up with the Pagan Sacrifice. I'm trying to get across the extreme swings of the guy's pitching. If you get a nice box of chocolates, enjoy them and move on. Don't open the next box, because... Those might not be chocolates!

Remember Samuel Deduno? Incredibly live arm, his heater would bend two-and a half feet. Hitters could barely touch him but Deduno could barely find the strike zone, and if he had to throw a "get it over" pitch, they tended to sail over the fence. Pagan is a little like that. His stuff is electric, but he's just barely got it under control, and he can implode just as fast as he can burn through three batters. Ultimately, you can't have guys like that in your bullpen. Sometimes you can't afford to see a reliever blow a lead.

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38 minutes ago, Aggies7 said:

Someone has to explain how there wasn’t a reliever up and ready to come in to the game for that 9th inning before pagan was able to face 3 guys. It’s inexcusable. Really, with the tendency to have a quick hook on guys, I’m beyond befuddled that Rocco went into that 9th inning without having somebody ready.

I would tend to agree with you, but not tonight as Jax---who threw 27 pitches last night was the only viable option.  Duran was not available after his 2 IP last night.  So------I'm asking would you have preferred Thornburg or Duffey in that situation?  Those were the only 2 left as options to replace Pagan.

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6 minutes ago, darwin22 said:

I would tend to agree with you, but not tonight as Jax---who threw 27 pitches last night was the only viable option.  Duran was not available after his 2 IP last night.  So------I'm asking would you have preferred Thornburg or Duffey in that situation?  Those were the only 2 left as options to replace Pagan.

I’d take either over a gassed Pagan. I didn’t have a problem bringing him back out in light of the reason you mentioned, but it’s wild that neither (or anyone else) was ready. 

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The bullpen was a disaster but don’t overlook the lack of fielding in the 9th.  Kirilloff’s failure to  field the sharp grounder pretty much right at him was a huge factor in the inning spinning out of control — as was Celestino’s not catching the fly to center.  A champion caliber team makes the tough plays.

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I haven't even read the OP or anything else at this point. I am beyond disappointed and incensed at the moment. I always try to be even keel and see the big picture. I believe in day by day in a 162 game season. And I have been a a believer in Rocco, even when I've disagreed with him at times. In fact, I've often defended him and shook my head at some of the vitriol sent his way that I think is unwarranted and misguided. 

But a 13yo little leaguer could have managed Wednesday's game better! Tell me I'm wrong? 

I actually kinda like Pagan and like the improvements he's made. I just want him in the 6th and 7th, not the 8th or 9th. And while I remain flabbergasted as to the pitch sequence that  seemed to cause the lost lead on Tuesday, I give him kudos for coming out tonight and just dominating the 8th. Retribution!

But who in their right mind believed Pagan should have been sent out for a 2nd inning after pitching last night? Especially when you had other options, including an already warmed up, veteran arm sitting on the bench presumably ready to go.

Pagan is done. Jax is thrown in to an almost impossible situation.

Rocco lost the game. He should be apologizing to his team, and the fans, for how obtuse he was. And he should be explaining to his bosses what the hell he was thinking. 

This is not a personal attack on Baldelli, especially considering it comes from someone who has largely believed in and supported him. But Wednesday's debacle of mismanagement deserves to be rattled out loud on top of a soapbox.

(Heavy sigh)

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52 minutes ago, Vanimal46 said:

As if we needed more bad news… 

Yup, just as I thought, Buxton seems to have had a [minor] setback and it was not the plan to have him on the bench today. Maybe it's time to IL him and see if his knee heals up... of course, he'll inexplicably hit 3 HRs the next few days because I suggested that.

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Well, after watching these two games, I’d say it’s likely we are sellers at the deadline. It’s not because we lost these two games per se - although they both were horrific losses. Rather, it’s because it’s very clear that the Guardians are a better ball club.

With respect to hitting, the two clubs are probably pretty similar, although the Twins probably have the edge if Buxton is mashing versus flailing.

The Guardians staff is demonstrably better, with the most significant difference in the bullpen arms. At the moment it’s hard to say if the Twins even have one shut down arm (maybe Duran). The Guardians have several.  The key to a truly contending club is a shut down pen (many of us TDers have been raising this point constantly). The Twins do not have a shut down pen and have no hopes of having one unless they raid their prospects at the deadline. The Guardians pen has had shutdown performance and looks like it has legs for the rest of the season,

Fielding wise, the last two games show how many little mental mistakes we make. Rocco has never developed a mentally strong fielding team. It was our bugaboo last year and it’s starting to rear it’s head again,  Don’t focus on the actual errors - that stat is misleading. Focus on the little league mental mistakes (Larnach throwing home in the 9th was the sole reason the winning run scored later in the inning) - there are just too many of them day in and day out. And now we are also developing a mental block about finishing off games.

Finally, Francona is a better manager. That actually counts for a lot - probably 6-12 games a year.  Rocco’s in game strategic decisions are simply too often mistakes. The last two games are just the most recent examples of this blinding statement of the obvious.

We have a fun team. Love to watch them.  But the Guardians have the better club - pretty much across the board. Hope we turn things around - things can change. But the sad truth is that Guardians are better constructed to contend than the Twins.

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There must be a mistake in the article toward the end.  It stated Cleveland sacrificed the runner from 2nd to 3rd and he scored on a sacrifice fly (the winning run, by the way).   How could that be?  Haven't we been told for 3 1/2 years now that sacrifice bunts don't work?  You never give up an out for a base?  Even in the 9th inning or extra innings?  Then how could that have happened tonight?  Did Francona violate a code?  Or did he forget briefly what year it was and play the game the way he was taught?  This sounds very suspicious to me; I want someone to look further into this and maybe fine Francona if he broke the computer code.  

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The baseball fan in me really appreciated the sacrifice bunt and sacrifice fly on consecutive pitches immediately after the game-tying hit for Cleveland. Manufacturing runs, and efficiently so. It's a sadly (and needlessly) dying artform. 

Francona has been eating Baldelli's lunch this series managerially. 

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Who could have predicted not addressing the bullpen over the winter was a very risky strategy? Trading your best reliever a terrible idea?

 

These outcomes are at least partially the result of front office decisions. 

 

In the future I hope the front office changes tactics. A weak bullpen is difficult to maneuver around, ends up throwing away games, and erodes confidence everywhere. 

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Worst loss since the one in Oakland last year when Arraez threw the ball over Sano's head. If you recall, that loss sent the Twins into a very dark place they could never come back from. Last night's game has a similar feel: doom.

I can't believe anyone is still blaming Rocco. It's not like he has a choice between a putting in Mariano Rivera and a bus driver and keeps making the wrong moves. These are grown men, major league baseball players. If the manager doesn't trust Duffey enough to put him into a 2-run game in the 9th inning, what the hell is he even doing on this team? If Kirilloff and Celestino and Larnach can't make major league plays in the OF, why are they all on the roster?

Second night in a row where super inspiring offensive moments were immediately squashed by horrendous pitching. Good teams don't do that, especially two nights in a row when they are FIGHTING FOR FIRST PLACE AGAINST THEIR DIVISION RIVAL!

With a Boston win last night, the Twins are now outside the playoff picture looking in. We're watching the death of the season in real time right now. Don't forget the Twins have 5 games AT Cleveland next week. Team could be under .500 before that series is over.

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I think these losses are going to cost a lot. and they might define the season. I remember in 2019 it was the reverse. We were neck and neck with Cleveland, and we went there, sweep them in Cleveland, and never look back. Here we were ahead, and now drop 2 winnable games, and they are ahead with all the momentum. It will depend on how our club responds next week in Cleveland, although with the state of our bullpen (Duran, mind you, he is a rookie, and who else?) I don't have a lot of confidence.

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7 hours ago, mikelink45 said:

I know the bullpen is the big story and it's not a surprise that they're lousy. They have been bad all year and every night I listen to the announcers tell how we've given up more home runs than any other bullpen. It's a real story to me is how Cleveland plays the game. Don't strike out like we did in the extra innings last night, make contact. Sacrifice flies moving the runners and playing the way baseball has been played for decades instead of swinging for the fences is a valuable and successful formula.

I know we scored enough runs to win tonight, but even with that I was just enthralled by how Cleveland approached each inning and continued to put pressure on us and our mediocre bullpen

You last sentence says it all. At the moment it was taking place I was not enthralled....however the key to all this is the dugout leader. They have Francona, we have Professor Baldelli. That is all. 

Twins Geezer - out!

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7 hours ago, darwin22 said:

#1 Sonny Gray:  Coming out for the 5th inning with a 5-1 lead facing the BOTTOM of the order, you'd think Gray would be able to execute his pitches--even with a climbing pitch count---to save the bullpen. That was soon lost as Gray served up a HR to Hedges (hitting in .160s) which was followed by 3 straight singles.  Gray has GOT TO BE BETTER.  Plain and simple.

 

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Great comments by many posters.  I think I wore out the "Rec" or approval icons.  Our FO needs to do something sooner rather than never for our BP.  Our manager shot to notoriety on the strength of a record setting HR season.  He really isn't very good with situational baseball, whether that's managing a BP or manufacturing a run when all you need is one run to win.  This series is showing the gap between someone like Francona and Rocco.  Give me back Paul Molitor...analytics be damned.  

It's a long season.  But this stretch is shining a huge spotlight on all this team's flaws, from personnel to the managing and coaching.  "Staying the course" doesn't seem to be an effective strategy.  Some shaking up of the current situation is needed, whether that's trades or other moves.  

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42 minutes ago, bighat said:

Worst loss since the one in Oakland last year when Arraez threw the ball over Sano's head. If you recall, that loss sent the Twins into a very dark place they could never come back from. Last night's game has a similar feel: doom.

I can't believe anyone is still blaming Rocco. It's not like he has a choice between a putting in Mariano Rivera and a bus driver and keeps making the wrong moves. These are grown men, major league baseball players. If the manager doesn't trust Duffey enough to put him into a 2-run game in the 9th inning, what the hell is he even doing on this team? If Kirilloff and Celestino and Larnach can't make major league plays in the OF, why are they all on the roster?

Second night in a row where super inspiring offensive moments were immediately squashed by horrendous pitching. Good teams don't do that, especially two nights in a row when they are FIGHTING FOR FIRST PLACE AGAINST THEIR DIVISION RIVAL!

With a Boston win last night, the Twins are now outside the playoff picture looking in. We're watching the death of the season in real time right now. Don't forget the Twins have 5 games AT Cleveland next week. Team could be under .500 before that series is over.

"I can't believe anyone is still blaming Rocco. It's not like he has a choice between a putting in Mariano Rivera and a bus driver and keeps making the wrong moves. These are grown men, major league baseball players. If the manager doesn't trust Duffey enough to put him into a 2-run game in the 9th inning, what the hell is he even doing on this team? If Kirilloff and Celestino and Larnach can't make major league plays in the OF, why are they all on the roster?"

Agree with quite a bit, but this paragraph made me pause.  

The manager plays just an important part of the game as any player, maybe more of one.  He decides which pitcher starts and what order they start in.  He decides how long they stay in the game, and which pitcher(s) follow him and how long they stay, etc.  He decides who plays what positions that day, where they bat in the lineup, pinch hitters, if any, if bunt signs are put on (or not), steals (or not)............and so on.  Who he trusts (or doesn't) to put in what situations can decide more games than we think about, both in pitching and in lineups; who he sits against which pitchers, and what pitchers he uses against match ups, etc.  Their decisions play an important part in a lot of games during the season and they have to take the heat when things go bad; it's part of the job.  Rocco hasn't made the best decisions at times, and folks say so in different ways.  

The manager looks like a genius when their guys come through and a dork when they don't; I get it.  But Rocco in particular just doesn't seem to have a feel for some things other managers do.  He is like a piano player.  Many can play the correct keys in the correct time, but a true player has a FEEL for it and makes it sound good.  Rocco plays it by how the computers tell him the best odds are and makes the right decisions often based on that, but doesn't have the FEEL necessary to buck his spreadsheets when the time calls for it and it is noticeable at times.  He has the brains, and knows the game, but sometimes folks question his gut when calls have to be made.  That is when the arrows come out and they can be deserved.  Anyway, that is my sermon for the day; not picking on you.  :)  

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Are the Twins a good team - definitely. Our bats should have won both games, but the bullpen is a mess.  

I am not a Rocco fan and I wonder why he had Thornberg warm up so many times but did not use him.  He may be burned out from last night without ever getting on the actual mound.  But I also wonder how Rocco can or should manage this assortment of arms.  If the SP cannot go long, it is a tough night, after night, after night!

When will Buxton be back? And I mean in the field too.  This really hurts the team, but what is really wrong with him - can it be fixed?  I like Arreaz at 2B more than Polanco this season and Polanco might have the value to get us another good arm.

Finally, empty the Minors of every arm that looks like it has life and try to rescue the BP. Put Archer in the pen, he only goes 4 innings, what if that was in relief - like last night if he came in for Gray?

This is my second post because I cannot get this game out of my mind - I hope the Twins players can!

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5 hours ago, USAFChief said:

Who could have predicted not addressing the bullpen over the winter was a very risky strategy? Trading your best reliever a terrible idea?

 

These outcomes are at least partially the result of front office decisions. 

 

In the future I hope the front office changes tactics. A weak bullpen is difficult to maneuver around, ends up throwing away games, and erodes confidence everywhere. 

While I remain OK with the Paddack/Rogers deal.

I continue to wait for the front office to get bullpen serious.

In order to be bullpen serious, they need to replace the members of the bullpen that are not trusted. 

Either Duffey is hurt or Rocco doesn't trust Duffey right now. I don't blame the team for not trusting Duffey,  However... if there isn't trust and he remains in the bullpen. They are not bullpen serious. 

Duffey was fresh and Rocco went back to a 2nd inning of Pagan instead. 

Not replacing arms that you don't trust leads to moments of no other options like last night. The bullpen is used too much these days to hide liabilities. It is entirely possible to build a bullpen with stuff up and down the line. Not only possible but necessary.

We are not bullpen serious yet. 

 

 

 

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Twice the game became unwatchable. Blowing the 5-1 lead...and that weak HR by a guy who isn't even hitting .200 to get it started. Then the 9th inning meltdown. If you can't hold a 3 run lead, at home, in a division battle for 1st place...you really don't deserve to be there. Kirilloff is not a regular 1st baseman and that ball hit to him should have been fielded. The bloop single that tied the game probably would have been an out if Buck was in center. But the pitching was awful and so was the strategy. Worse, how did the Twins answer in the 9th? The same way they did the night before in the 11th. A meek and quick exit.

With Buxton probably on shaky ground to remain on the field; with the bullpen in shambles; with the rest of the lineup so incredibly inconsistent, I agree with those who are saying we won't make the playoffs. Cleveland is on the march, winning two games that they probably should have lost.

Last two losses really hurt. Last night's was the dagger. Remember too, Cleveland has SIX games in hand on us. The tea leaves don't favor us. Twins are in deep trouble.

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