They call it: "Les Suck".
Leading 6-1 with one out in the seventh, the Twins looked in pretty good shape. It's amazing how quickly things can unravel, and how even one of baseball's worst teams can look like the better team on any given night. One inning...actually, less than one inning, was all it took for the Seattle Mariners to destroy what Glen Perkins and his offense had built.
When the bases were loaded and Rick Anderson had just sat down after coming out to talk to Perkins, you hoped that (even though Raul Ibanez was at the plate and Adrian Beltre was on deck) Anderson knew what he was doing. But really, after the grand slam by Ibanez the Twins were still leading 6-5, and if Brian Bass could collect a pair of outs before the Mariners scored again, everything would be okay.
It wasn't. Oh...how it wasn't.
By the time Matt Guerrier recorded the final out of the seventh inning, the Mariners had put six more on the board, and the Twins had used four pitchers. A double, a walk, a passed ball and an infield single, all of the bad karma that had been taking a nap woke up at once and slapped the Minnesota pitching staff and defense in the face. The seventh was a 10-run inning for Seattle, and it had stunned the Twins into silence.
You know how the saying goes? Sometimes you're the bat...and sometimes you're the ball.
It's easy to heap the scorn on the bullpen, but games like this happen. That's not excusing the horrible pitches or the lack of concentration, but for one inning last night the Mariners got the better of the Twins, and it all went down at once.
Brian Bass: 9 pitches, 0 innings, 2 hits, 2 runs
Bass doesn't get used often enough to get into a groove. Last night's appearance was only his sixth since July 13th, which was also the last time he gave up a run--a solo shot in Detroit. The problem Brian has is that every time he gets into a game, he can't get through it without laboring. In July he pitched 10.2 innings, but threw 197 pitches...which should be enough to get a starter through 14 innings, much less a relief pitcher. You can't blame him for not being on top of his game when he doesn't get utilized very often, but on the other hand, when he does get used he's all over the place. There are long counts and base runners when he is effective, and the opposition just manages to convert those base runners into runs when he isn't. It's almost like he relies on the hitters to let him off the hook.
Craig Breslow: 10 pitches, 0.1 innings, 1 walk, 1 run
Last night's game was Breslow's seventh since June 30th. Which is absolutely ridiculous. These guys sit on a shelf not being used, and then we're supposed to be upset when they come in and can't find the strike zone? Breslow managed three strikes in his ten pitches, meaning that between him and Bass they threw seven strikes in 19 pitches. The only difference between Bass and Breslow is that Breslow has usually been effective. My concern: if two guys can't find ways to get into the game, why are we keeping that many pitchers? Starters go five days before taking the hill again, but at least they get to be out there a while and find themselves. When relief pitchers are four, five, eight days between appearances and are lucky to go a full inning, what kind of results are we expecting? Personally, I'm giving Breslow a pass for last night, because he's usually done his job.
Matt Guerrier: 19 pitches, 0.1 innings, 3 hits, 2 walks, 3 runs
Guerrier, unlike the two guys above, sees plenty of time. Maybe more than he needs. Last night was his fifth appearance in a week and his 54th of the season. There might be some sign of fatigue showing, as in his last four appearances (Thursday, Friday, Sunday, Monday) he's pitched 3.1 innings, allowing seven hits including a pair of jacks, for a total of six runs. I believe in Matt as a reliable and effective relief pitcher, but some of his innings might need to be levied onto Craig Breslow.
Boof Bonser: 19 pitches, 1.0 innings, 1 hit, 1 strikeout
Boof pitched a scoreless eighth. There isn't much more to say about his appearance, other than it was an effective one, and that it was only his seventh appearance since June 28th.
While I can understand carrying seven relief pitchers if you use them all, the Twins aren't managing to do so. Partially this could be due to over-use of Jesse Crain and the aforementioned Guerrier, but instead of keeping guys fresh it's just keeping them rusty. The Twins have three relief pitchers currently doing the job of two.
I plan to do a little more research on this, to see exactly how efficient (or inefficient) the Twins have been in their use of bullpen arms, because my conclusions could very well just be conjecture. Overall I believe Gardenhire's use of his 'pen, as far as when to rely on it, is very solid. My concern is how it's used, and this goes beyond the tried-and-true use of his closer.