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


    Thiéres Rabelo

    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.

    Image courtesy of Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

    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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    3 hours ago, Aggies7 said:

    I’ve been told that managers and closers are overrated 

    Defaulting to the same guy only in the 9th inning is overrated, having a good bullpen is not. But it's true that many here thought that Rogers was overrated, if that's what you meant.

    I just don't know if there are many, if any managers out there who could navigate this awful bullpen to perfection like for those who think it's possible. Sure, I would have pulled Pagan quicker, but when your options are Jax (after losing the previous day's game), and Duffey and Thornburg (two guys who should be pitching in AAA right now), I can understand Rocco's call. 

    I'd just like to see more criticism directed at the front office rather than Rocco... it's not his fault Pagan and Smith were our biggest bullpen additions.

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    12 minutes ago, Riverbrian said:

    The traditional strategy of closer/set up/set up only really works if your starting pitching gets you 6 innings fairly often. 

    They have too many young arms that need innings management and they are too adherent to the 1st time/2nd time/3rd time through the order data to even think about the traditional strategy. 

    Gonna need a bullpen full of arms that they trust. 

    Agreed. I agree with not letting average, or worse, starters see lineups a 3rd time on a regular basis. The data is quite clear that that's not a recipe for success. But if your rotation is full of those types of starters, and you know MLB is changing rules to make it harder to ship arms back and forth between St Paul and Minneapolis, you need to have a better plan for the bullpen than they've had. I like most of what the FO does, and think Falvey did a great job updating the minor league development processes, but they missed on their pitching staff strategy this year.

    I didn't mind the Rogers trade (hindsight has proven it to be a disaster for this year), losing Alcala early put them behind the 8 ball in terms of 1 inning relief arms, and the injuries to rotation arms early messed with what was an unclear plan for Winder/long relief/piggyback starters. I think they made a mistake thinking they could start the year with a rotation full of guys they knew couldn't get through more than 5 innings for a variety of reasons and only having 1 long relief/piggyback option on the roster to start the year. I know they were expecting to build their starters up to be able to do longer outings, but they should've had Smeltzer in the bigs along with Winder to be able to piggyback Archer for sure, and have the other long guy go once a week and get the short relief some relief. It was unsustainable to have a pen full of short inning guys while knowing they'd need to cover 4+ innings more often than not. Maybe they miscalculated how long it'd take for the starters to get stretched out. 

    No matter what caused the reliance on short relief combined with short starters, it's time to adjust before the season is lost. These were 2 brutal losses (first 2 games I attended this year so I'll take some blame), and they've been on a downward trend for a couple weeks, but there's still 92 games left. The season isn't lost, despite what the MN sports fan in us wants us to believe. But the season could be lost by the deadline if they don't get things turned around. So it doesn't really matter to me what exactly went wrong to get the staff to the spot it's in now, what matters is how they get themselves out of it. Sticking with the current, failing plan isn't an answer. Either change players or change strategy. The easiest change is likely changing players. But they need to start those changes now.

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    Great to see Jeffers bunt. Since 2019 we have been slow to adjust to the dead ball, Small ball (bunting, SBs, etc) mentality is needed. These last 2 games I expected the Twins to win. Our offense is much better than theirs which proved itself against an elite pitching SP & RPs by scoring a bunch of runs. 

    The difference is our SPs and RPs are over used and we need an extra closer. I predicted this from the beginning of the year when they started to rely heavily on short relief and they traded away Rogers. It's easy to predict because it happens every year. Management ignoring long relief, over rely on short relief, thus run them down, to   compensate they then over extend the rotation then running them down which produces ineffiency and injuries. Injuries isn't neccessarily bad luck, it's bad management.

    We have a great team and we have pretty good pitching if they are handled properly. We still need a closer and now we a long reliever to help relieve the rotation and short relief. And it doesn't hurt to get a front line pitcher to help us get to and advance in the post season. If we don't do something now and try to better this team don't ever think we'll ever do anything.

     

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    4 minutes ago, chpettit19 said:

    Agreed. I agree with not letting average, or worse, starters see lineups a 3rd time on a regular basis. The data is quite clear that that's not a recipe for success. But if your rotation is full of those types of starters, and you know MLB is changing rules to make it harder to ship arms back and forth between St Paul and Minneapolis, you need to have a better plan for the bullpen than they've had. I like most of what the FO does, and think Falvey did a great job updating the minor league development processes, but they missed on their pitching staff strategy this year.

    I didn't mind the Rogers trade (hindsight has proven it to be a disaster for this year), losing Alcala early put them behind the 8 ball in terms of 1 inning relief arms, and the injuries to rotation arms early messed with what was an unclear plan for Winder/long relief/piggyback starters. I think they made a mistake thinking they could start the year with a rotation full of guys they knew couldn't get through more than 5 innings for a variety of reasons and only having 1 long relief/piggyback option on the roster to start the year. I know they were expecting to build their starters up to be able to do longer outings, but they should've had Smeltzer in the bigs along with Winder to be able to piggyback Archer for sure, and have the other long guy go once a week and get the short relief some relief. It was unsustainable to have a pen full of short inning guys while knowing they'd need to cover 4+ innings more often than not. Maybe they miscalculated how long it'd take for the starters to get stretched out. 

    No matter what caused the reliance on short relief combined with short starters, it's time to adjust before the season is lost. These were 2 brutal losses (first 2 games I attended this year so I'll take some blame), and they've been on a downward trend for a couple weeks, but there's still 92 games left. The season isn't lost, despite what the MN sports fan in us wants us to believe. But the season could be lost by the deadline if they don't get things turned around. So it doesn't really matter to me what exactly went wrong to get the staff to the spot it's in now, what matters is how they get themselves out of it. Sticking with the current, failing plan isn't an answer. Either change players or change strategy. The easiest change is likely changing players. But they need to start those changes now.

    Agreed... The season isn't lost. The Ups and the Downs are going to happen. We are still in contention.  

    And there is absolutely no question that this is indeed... your fault. 😀

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    2 minutes ago, Riverbrian said:

    Agreed... The season isn't lost. The Ups and the Downs are going to happen. We are still in contention.  

    And there is absolutely no question that this is indeed... your fault. 😀

    The worst part is I was on the field for batting practice and had the chance to talk to both Falvey and Rocco, but didn't give them any of the answers TD has for fixing the team and guaranteeing a world series ring. I may be the worst TD poster of all time. The powers that be were right in front of me and I had the chance to save the team with the brilliance of TD and I failed! I probably should've just told Falvey to fire Rocco on the spot and implement a TD survey as manager for the rest of the year. I'm sure @Brock Beauchamp could set something up to have a constant survey of in game decisions that TD users could use to run the team. Next time I see him I'll let Falvey know and we can all get our WS rings as the collective Twins manager.

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    Duffey's been plagued with home run allowance throughout his career, often well above the MLB average, but never to this extent. Duffey's xFIP is 3.37. The K% and BB% are both solid enough and the BABIP against is the highest he's seen since 2017. It does seem like Duffey's lost a little velocity, over the past couple years though. Right now, Duffey is repeatably throwing his fastball like a meatball, right in the heart of the mid/upper strike zone and hitters have been rightfully punishing this mistake. He needs to be spreading the fastball out a bit on the inside/outside more so hitters can't predict it or crush it as easily.

    When it comes to the Rogers trade... it has never made sense to me. From the trade itself until now. Why build a team like you want to compete and then gut it at an important position of need at the same time? I've seen the front office treat relief pitchers as disposable/replaceable assets in the past and it's never worked. Not once. With a team like the Twins who don't value starters going deep into games, relief pitching is even more critical.

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    4 hours ago, Riverbrian said:

    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. 

     

     

     

    I agree on the last part. I've been saying for a long time now there are no "low leverage guys" in a bullpen. 

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    12 minutes ago, chpettit19 said:

    The worst part is I was on the field for batting practice and had the chance to talk to both Falvey and Rocco, but didn't give them any of the answers TD has for fixing the team and guaranteeing a world series ring. I may be the worst TD poster of all time. The powers that be were right in front of me and I had the chance to save the team with the brilliance of TD and I failed! I probably should've just told Falvey to fire Rocco on the spot and implement a TD survey as manager for the rest of the year. I'm sure @Brock Beauchamp could set something up to have a constant survey of in game decisions that TD users could use to run the team. Next time I see him I'll let Falvey know and we can all get our WS rings as the collective Twins manager.

    OMG... Clearly... You have to be addressed before we even think about addressing the bullpen. 

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    13 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

    Interesting what you can do with a manager that actually knows how to manage.  Wish we had someone like Francona.

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    So, I was at the game last night and it was disappointing to go home with a loss. 

    I'm not surprised to see people up in arms over the bullpen imploding again (it sucked), and it's hardly a shock to see people going after Rocco's bullpen management (there are clearly people on this board who want him fired and are gunning for him at every opportunity; YMMV on whether it's fair or not). But outside of a comment on Kirilloff not handling a grounder (that was not scored as an error) and one comment on Celestino not corralling a deep shot to the wall (that would have been a 5-star catch, IMHO), and baffled by the lack of attention to the Twins poor defense last night. 

    The error by Gordon cost the team a run and was the kind of frustrating careless one that makes your teeth grind. Pitchers not covering bases properly at least three times. The terrible balk that cost a run in a bizarre play that would have scored a run on the awful pickoff throw that Thielbar chucked away (zero points to the always poor Angel Hernandez, who called it so late that he managed to confuse everyone in the stadium including the official scorer and had his usual inconsistent strike zone that baffled both teams). Kirilloff's inability to block the hard grounder at him was disappointing (I wouldn't have scored it an error either) because we've heard about how skilled he is at 1B and it was a key situation. Really rough defense last night. 

    The offense was very good last night, and was nearly even better (quite a few drives to the OF that were hit directly at people and flies that game up just a touch short). Should have been plenty to win.

    Disappointing to see Gray couldn't get deeper in the game, and extra frustrating for him to give up a dinger to a terrible hitter like Hedges. Cotton had been pitching well and had a rotten night (that HBP sure looked like it hit the bat, but they wouldn't show a replay at the stadium so the assumption was we'd seen another Angel Hernandez classic), Pagan couldn't go two, Jax had back to back biffs after being really good this year...yuck. Literally no one pitched well for the Twins last night. None of them.

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    2 hours ago, chpettit19 said:

    I think it's time to get Moran back up and see if he can be a real piece. Hopefully Alcala is back soon. Then they need to make a move or 2 (or 5) in July when other teams are more serious about making trades. I'm never going to be a proponent of spending tons on the pen as relief arms are just such a crap shoot, but they need to jump on the velo/stuff bandwagon and quit trying to rely on Duffey types for prominent bullpen roles. I think it's time to move Canterino to the pen, too. Just like Duran, it'd be ideal if he could be a starter, but his arm just doesn't seem to be up to the workload. A Duran/Alcala/Canterino/Moran (I'm still really not sure why a guy with 15 Ks in 10 innings with only 2 runs allowed was sent back to AAA) pen could have the makings of something legit. Then you can leave the Duffey/Pagan/Thielbar types for the lower leverage spots. 

    I don't think the answer is necessarily to throw cash at multiple high end guys either, but I've lost a lot of confidence in the "spin gold out of straw," approach. It wasn't just Colome that tanked last season, and even though the pen stabilized a bit, it wasn't enough. History is slowly repeating itself.

    I totally agree that having a solid 3-4 arms like you named would go a long way and make it possible to hide guys like Pagan & Thielbar, though if Canterino is now strictly a relief arm (not saying you're wrong) the SP pipeline is taking some early Ls. The Twins had success with the front heavy strategy in '19. Duffey, May, and Rogers all had career years and threw 50ish innings. People forget how meh the rest of that bullpen was (they DFA'd their closer at the deadline ffs.) Another issue that gets less attention, but has already been mentioned, is SPs going deeper into games. Even with a solid 3-4 arms, you can't have a rotation turning in short starts 2-3 times per turn. 

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    1 hour ago, chpettit19 said:

    Agreed. I agree with not letting average, or worse, starters see lineups a 3rd time on a regular basis. The data is quite clear that that's not a recipe for success. But if your rotation is full of those types of starters, and you know MLB is changing rules to make it harder to ship arms back and forth between St Paul and Minneapolis, you need to have a better plan for the bullpen than they've had. I like most of what the FO does, and think Falvey did a great job updating the minor league development processes, but they missed on their pitching staff strategy this year.

    I didn't mind the Rogers trade (hindsight has proven it to be a disaster for this year), losing Alcala early put them behind the 8 ball in terms of 1 inning relief arms, and the injuries to rotation arms early messed with what was an unclear plan for Winder/long relief/piggyback starters. I think they made a mistake thinking they could start the year with a rotation full of guys they knew couldn't get through more than 5 innings for a variety of reasons and only having 1 long relief/piggyback option on the roster to start the year. I know they were expecting to build their starters up to be able to do longer outings, but they should've had Smeltzer in the bigs along with Winder to be able to piggyback Archer for sure, and have the other long guy go once a week and get the short relief some relief. It was unsustainable to have a pen full of short inning guys while knowing they'd need to cover 4+ innings more often than not. Maybe they miscalculated how long it'd take for the starters to get stretched out. 

    No matter what caused the reliance on short relief combined with short starters, it's time to adjust before the season is lost. These were 2 brutal losses (first 2 games I attended this year so I'll take some blame), and they've been on a downward trend for a couple weeks, but there's still 92 games left. The season isn't lost, despite what the MN sports fan in us wants us to believe. But the season could be lost by the deadline if they don't get things turned around. So it doesn't really matter to me what exactly went wrong to get the staff to the spot it's in now, what matters is how they get themselves out of it. Sticking with the current, failing plan isn't an answer. Either change players or change strategy. The easiest change is likely changing players. But they need to start those changes now.

    "Either change players or change strategy. The easiest change is likely changing players. But they need to start those changes now."

    Might be easier, but not necessarily possible.  And, when it isn't, the only other option, as you said, is change the strategy.  And I don't see that happening.  And it makes me wonder why.  

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    51 minutes ago, heresthething said:

    Interesting what you can do with a manager that actually knows how to manage.  Wish we had someone like Francona.

    A lot of teams do.  He is elite and not many are.  I would put Buck Showalter on the short list, maybe Craig Counsel, and maybe Kevin Cash (but he has too much Rocco in him). 

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    1 hour ago, Danchat said:

    Defaulting to the same guy only in the 9th inning is overrated, having a good bullpen is not. But it's true that many here thought that Rogers was overrated, if that's what you meant.

    I just don't know if there are many, if any managers out there who could navigate this awful bullpen to perfection like for those who think it's possible. Sure, I would have pulled Pagan quicker, but when your options are Jax (after losing the previous day's game), and Duffey and Thornburg (two guys who should be pitching in AAA right now), I can understand Rocco's call. 

    I'd just like to see more criticism directed at the front office rather than Rocco... it's not his fault Pagan and Smith were our biggest bullpen additions.

    The FO gets plenty of heat too. I won’t blame rocco for putting together a terrible bullpen, just like I wouldn’t blame the FO for not having someone come in to the game in that 9th inning. Both can shoulder the blame 

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    2 minutes ago, Mark G said:

    "Either change players or change strategy. The easiest change is likely changing players. But they need to start those changes now."

    Might be easier, but not necessarily possible.  And, when it isn't, the only other option, as you said, is change the strategy.  And I don't see that happening.  And it makes me wonder why.  

    Adding outside players as the change isn't likely a real possible right now, but I'd hope it's a real possibility in a few weeks. Otherwise I think there's some internal player changes that could be made now/soon that could be paired with some strategy changes that could (should?) take place.

    Winder was officially optioned to AAA (talk of him being called up to start in a doubleheader game on the 28th) and Rocco says the team isn't interested in returning to a 6 man rotation. Which is fine, but it's a chance for a player/strategy combo change. Winder back up in long relief/piggyback to give the short relief an extra day off each week. They need to accept that Archer isn't getting real deep into games anytime soon. Ober should be back in 2/3 weeks and then you have 7 starters available. I'd move Archer to the pen as a 2 inning weapon at that point. I'd bring Moran back now and see if he can actually be an option. His first 10 innings this year weren't completely lights out, but 15 Ks and 2 runs allowed is a good start. 

    I think there's a foundation for a competitive staff with Gray, Ryan, Duran, Ober, Winder, Archer, Jax, Smeltzer, Pagan, Moran. That isn't a complete staff and you'd like to see someone in the Gray/Ryan range of starters added along with someone in the Duran range of relievers before the deadline, but I think those arms can be competitive with minimal outside additions and some strategy/usage tweaks. 

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    5 hours ago, chpettit19 said:

    The worst part is I was on the field for batting practice and had the chance to talk to both Falvey and Rocco, but didn't give them any of the answers TD has for fixing the team and guaranteeing a world series ring...

    I still can't believe they didn't kick you out of the stadium when you took the opportunity to run over and start urinating in the visitor's dugout... dude, show of home town pride has to have a limit. 

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    Side note... I'll take the opportunity to apologize for my entire section and the stupid kids starting the "throw it back" chants. I seriously hate that. Give the ball to a Cleveland fan or somebody else if you don't want it... and never throw stuff onto the field, ever.

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