The Twins have done a great job of patching holes left by injuries. But one hole they have not patched was left by the Pat Neshek injury. Gardy refuses to leave his starters in long enough to bridge to Joe Nathan. And he refuses to bring Nathan in before the ninth inning. So on this team, the eighth inning set-up guy is a key role. Let's face it, the Twins don't have anybody who can do the job right now.
Exhibit A: June 30.
The Twins have a 4-1 lead going into the seventh inning. Glen Perkins has pitched masterfully, throwing 80 pitches through six innings and holding the Tigers to one run while striking out 7. After getting the first out, he gives up a bloop single and Gardy jumps out of the dugout with a quick hook. Jesse Crain comes in, gives up a hit and a walk and leaves in favor of Dennys Reyes, who promptly allows Perkins' base runner and one of Crain's for two runs. Then Guerrier comes in with the Twins clinging to a 4-3 lead and proceeds to cough up the tying and wining runs. He was lucky to get out of there without giving up more. The Twins lose 5-4.
Exhibit B: July 8.
It's the seventh inning and Nick Blackburn is pitching a gem. He's only thrown 85 pitches with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, but when Boston manager Terry Francona brings in Sean Casey to pinch hit for the Sox back-up catcher, Gardy calls on Reyes, who gets pinch hitter the last out of the seventh, preserving a 5-2 lead. Then Reyes gives up a lead-off double to Ellsbury and Gardy brings in Guerrier, who again had nothing, giving up Reyes's run and three of his own, allowing the Sox to storm back to a 6-5 victory. The most memorable moment for me was the Manny Ramirez homer, which was a letter-high fastball on the inside part of the plate. I could have hit that ball for a homer. So that's two games in nine days in which Guerrier had nothing at all on his pitches and even less control of them. The result was predictable: another loss for the Twins.
I think we can conclude from that that Guerrier is not suited to pitch in those situations. And as Exhibit A shows, Crain isn't ready for that role either. He's still coming back from shoulder surgery. Last night's debacle makes it obvious that Brian Bass is not the answer. And tonight Reyes showed why he is not either--he's only good for one batter at a time. So the Twins have nobody to bridge the gap between starters and the closer against tough teams. If I'm Bill Smith, I'm looking for a guy who can shut the door in the eighth. If there's one thing that stands between this team and a championship, it's the hole left by Pat Neshek's torn elbow ligament.
Any ideas about whom to pursue as the trade deadline nears? I wonder if Huston Street is available, and at what cost.