Reusse: After flashes of competence, Twins' pitching reverts to form

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

There was no mystery as to what produced the Twins' sudden show of competence with a five-game winning streak over the past week. There also was no puzzle as to what caused that minor uptick to come to an end Tuesday afternoon at Target Field.

Pitching. It's always pitching.

The Twins took a 10-0 loss against the Mariners last Tuesday that dropped them to a season-low 15 games under .500 at 26-41.

The Seattle slaughter also raised the team earned run average to 5.05, which stood 28th among 30 MLB teams. That was quite the fall off a cliff for a team that was comfortably fourth in the 2020 mini-season with a 3.58 ERA.

The Twins received four terrific innings from rookie Bailey Ober the next night, beat the M's 7-2, and went on this five-game interruption in their Season of Woe.

The ERA over those five victories, Wednesday through Monday, was 2.57. The batting average against was .213, compared to .264 for opponents in the prior 67 games.

Just to make sure what remains of the Twins' audience didn't enjoy a moment of relief from the gloom, the baseball gods steered a pitch from Cincinnati's Tyler Mahle into the left hand of Byron Buxton in the fourth inning Monday night.

This sent him back to the injured list because of a broken finger, after a glorious three games and three innings of good health in his return to center field.

Buxton's replacement was rookie Gilberto Celestino, projected to spend 2021 at Class AA Wichita but making his 11th start in center for the shorthanded Twins on Tuesday.

Celestino had flown to Columbus, Ohio, on Monday's off day with the St. Paul Saints, then flew back Tuesday morning. He still might have had the freshest wheels on the field, considering the Reds and the Twins had completed 12 innings at precisely 12:30 a.m. Tuesday.

He showed off speed with a diving catch on an Eduardo Suarez fly ball in the fourth inning that was worthy of Lord Byron. Celestino also went 0-for-2, and he's now at an overmatched .118.

As it turned out, the Twins only could get one trip through the revised rotation — Ober, Jose Berrios, Randy Dobnak, Kenta Maeda and J.A. Happ — before reverting to previous bad habits in Game 2 vs. the Reds.

The pitching was subpar, and at key moments, so was the fielding.

Many of us Twins followers had gone marginally psychotic when manager Rocco Baldelli pulled Ober after four innings last week in Seattle.

The 6-9 rookie had thrown 63 pitches, allowed one hit and faced the minimum 12 hitters. The Twins were leading 7-0 and Ober needed the bottom of the fifth for his first big-league victory.

Maybe we owe Rocco an apology.

The Reds' lineup is strong (even with Joey Votto sitting out a one-game suspension) and Ober was not working at the same confident pace that he demonstrated in three previous starts.

Ober did make it through four innings with a 2-1 lead (a Tucker Barnhart homer in the third). The pitch count was 59; this time, Baldelli said, they needed more out of Ober because of a stressed-out bullpen.

So, the rookie went out for the fifth, gave up three hits, a walk and left down 3-2 after one out in the fifth.

The Twins did give the announced crowd of 19,187 a burst of thunder remindful of 2019 in the eighth. The Reds bullpen has been horrific this season, and this fit right in:

Down 7-2, Max Kepler hit a two-run home run to right-center. Lucas Sims entered and Trevor Larnach almost dented the Kirby Puckett statue on the plaza with a home run. Miguel Sano hit a 112-mph double off the very top of the left-field fence. Alex Kirilloff crushed a game-tying, two-run double to right-center.

For his part, Sims threw 14 pitches, allowed three runs and didn't get an out. That made it seem like a Monty Python skit when an umpire stopped to check Sims for an foreign substance as the reliever stomped toward his dugout.

Loud rally though it was, two poor plays in the Twins' infield had helped the Reds to three runs in the eighth. Then, Larnach's halting retreat in left turned Nick Castellanos' liner into a double that proceeded Tyler Naquin's winning, three-run home run off Hansel Robles in the ninth.

The final was 10-7, and Baldelli was asked about the misplays in the Reds' three-run innings.

"It's hard to look away from those," he said. "We made some good plays, but we didn't make all the plays. If we make the plays, we win the game."

Note: None of us media types had the guts to directly second guess Rocco for not taking out Ober after four innings.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting