As Scott Baker cruised through seven and a third tonight, when Ron Gardenhire lifted him from the game after throwing 101 pitches I raised little more than an eyebrow. It struck me as curious, but certainly the bullpen could safely record two more outs and then hand it over to Joe Nathan, right?
Fates continue to conspire against the Twins. Unless you don't believe in that sort of thing, in which case that means team performance has been absolutely miserable as of late. Inconsistent at best, the offense disappears behind strong pitching performances or the bullpen gives away a handful of wins per week. It's becoming a bit of a disturbing trend:
August 24: Kevin Slowey leaves with one out in the seventh with a 3-1 lead before Dennys Reyes allows an inherited runner to score. Still leading by a run, Reyes allows a lead-off double to Mark Teixeira in the bottom of the eighth. Jesse Crain immediately enters and gives up a triple of Vladimir Guerrero, another one to Gary Matthews Jr. two batters later, and finally a sacrifice fly to Juan Rivera that plated Matthews. Result: Angels 5, Twins 3
August 25: Leading the Mariners 2-1 in the bottom of the 9th, Joe Nathan leads off the inning by giving up a double to Adrian Beltre, who later scores as the Twins trade the tying run for two outs. In the bottom of the 11th with Jesse Crain on the mound, he allows a one-out homer to Beltre. Result: Mariners 3, Twins 2
August 28: After scraping together a run in the sixth and a run in the seventh, the Twins managed to tie Oakland at two all. In the bottom of the 9th, Ryan Sweeney singles off of Craig Breslow and then advances to second on a Daric Barton bunt. After Jesse Crain walks Emil Brown, Kurt Suzuki doubles and Sweeney scores. Result: Athletics 3, Twins 2
August 30: With a 2-1 lead going into the bottom of the 9th, Joe Nathan gives up a single to Bobby Crosby and then hits Emil Brown with nobody out. Ryan Sweeney chips a bunt, and Nathan tries to get the force at third. Instead he compounds a poor decision by making a bad throw, and both Crosby and Brown score. Result: Athletics 3, Twins 2
September 3: After fighting back from trailing most of the game and taking a second one-run lead in the top of the ninth, Joe Nathan and Jason Pridie combine to blow it. In the bottom of the 11th, Eddie Guardado gives up a lead-off double to Scott Rolen before Boof Bonser allows him to score by giving up a single to John McDonald...the first batter he faced. Result: Blue Jays 5, Twins 4
September 6: With the Twins leading 4-2, Scott Baker leaves with the bases empty and one out in the top of the 8th. Dennys Reyes and Matt Guerrier give away the game without recording an out. Result: Tigers 6, Twins 4
In some of these games there should be some blame placed on the offense, because it's hard to win a game when you only score two or three runs. But the bottom line is that six times in the last 14 days the bullpen hasn't done it's job, which is to hold the lead or maintain a tie. Every member of the bullpen has played a part: Nathan, Crain, Guerrier, Bonser, Breslow, Reyes and Guardado.
It's not a fun time in Twins Territory right now.