Tigers 8, Twins 7: Pitching and Defense Failure

At least the month of May is finally over. After an 8-7 loss last night in Detroit, the Twins lost a total of eight 1-run games in May. Most research will tell you that there is little correlation between bullpen quality, base running, defense, etc and ability to win 1-run games, but there is a correlation between a team's ability to win (or lose) other games and win-loss record in 1-run games. And at this point, the Twins simply aren't a very good team, all across the board.

The good news last night is that the Twins jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, as Detroit left fielder Ryan Raburn misplayed drives from Danny Valencia and Matt Tolbert into doubles, and Justin Morneau jumped all over a Max Scherzer fastball, lining a home run to right field. In the meantime, Twins starter Brian Duensing cruised through four scoreless innings, striking out four. But the wheels came off in the fifth, as the Tigers wrapped three singles and a ground rule double around a strikeout, cutting the deficit to 3-2. Then the error monster reared its ugly head, as with runners on second and third, shortstop Matt Tolbert fielded a ground ball to his right and attempted to throw out Brennan Boesch at third base. But Tolbert's throw flew into the dugout on the fly, scoring both runners and putting the Tigers up one. After an intentional walk to Miguel Cabrera, two more doubles made it a six run inning, one that could have been worse if not for Cabrera running through a stop sign and a good throw from Delmon Young getting the second out at home. At this point, Gardy had seen enough and Anthony Slama came in to stop the bleeding.

The offense came back with a run in the sixth on a Jim Thome sacrifice fly, then regained the lead with a Scherzer wild pitch and 2-run home run from Morneau in the seventh, putting the Twins up 7-6. But we've seen enough of the 2011 Twins to know what happened next, as Jose Mijares, fresh off the DL, trotted out to pitch the seventh. After a single and a walk to lead off the inning, two deep fly balls tied the game at seven. Then in the eighth inning, Phil Dumatrait made a bad throw to second base on a sacrifice bunt attempt, which led to a second bunt to advance the runners and another sacrifice fly to put the Tigers up for good. In the ninth, a Denard Span single and Alexi Casilla walk started the rally, but Morneau (strikeout) and Michael Cuddyer (ground out) couldn't take advantage.

Today, the Twins look to avoid another sweep. Studs, duds and notes follow after the jump.

Studs

  1. Justin Morneau: 2-4, 2 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI. He smashed two home runs, both no doubters. Hopefully he's back on track now, but I'd be a bit more comfortable if he was smashing the ball up the middle or to left center.
  2. Anthony Slama: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 SO. He looked good out there, stuff looked good, and the one walk to Austin Jackson was a result of fighting off a few good two strike pitches. I won't hold the bad pickoff throw against him, a scoreless relief outing seems so rare this year.

Duds

  1. Jose Mijares: 0.2 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 1 BB. More command issues, at this point you can pretty much guarantee a walk when he comes on to pitch.
  2. Brian Duensing: 4.2 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 2 BB, 5 SO. Absolutely lost it in the fifth.
  3. Delmon Young: 1-4, RBI, 3 SO. I have to give him credit for the RBI single and throw to get Cabrera at home. But the three strikeouts were ugly, and he's now batting .211 on the season.

Notes

  • Detroit reliever Al Albequerque is crazy filthy. After a 1-2-3 eighth inning where he struck out two, he now has 30 strikeouts in 17+ innings on the season.
  • With 36 losses through May, this is the second worst start in franchise history. Only the 1982 Twins, with 39 losses, have been worse.
  • Gardy noted after the game: "The good part of it is that we're battling out tails off." That's nice, but I'm less interested in "battling" than solid defense, throwing strikes, showing discipline at the plate, etc.
  • Good news, Francisco Liriano says he should be able to come off the DL when he's eligible. We'll see how a bullpen session goes in a few days.
  • Glen Perkins is progressing in his recovery from a strained oblique, as he is throwing from 120 feet and is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Wednesday or Thursday.
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