Wednesday September 28, 1988
Dennis Brackin reported on the end of Bert Blyleven’s difficult 1988 season in the September 29 issue of the Star Tribune:
Bert Blyleven was 19 years old when he pitched his first game for the Twins. Blyleven, now 37, pitched what might have been his last game in a Twins uniform Wednesday night.
If that is to be the case, there was no happy ending. The veteran righthander lost 5-2 to Oakland, his 17th setback in 27 decisions. Blyleven tied a major league record by hitting three batters in one inning, but, as has been the case so often, was done in by another bad inning devoid of personal good fortune.
The A’s scored four fifth-inning runs on five hits: a fly-ball double off the right-field tarp, a sinking liner in front of left fielder Dan Gladden, a bunt, a ball that deflected off Blyleven’s glove and a turf single.
It was a fitting end to the season, a notion even Blyleven advanced. A happy finish would have been as out of place as cozy security at the conclusion of “Nightmare on Elm Street.”
“This definitely has to be my worst season ever,” Blyleven said. “I’m glad it’s over. . . . Why keep going out there and losing?”
It was fitting, too, that the Twins mustered two runs off four Oakland pitchers. The Twins have scored 17 runs in Blyleven’s last seven starts, five times being held to two runs or fewer. Oakland righthander Todd Burns shut out the Twins until Steve Lombardozzi’s inside-the-park home run with one out in the eighth.
On June 28, Blyleven was 7-6 with a 4.51 ERA. Unbeknownst to anyone, that was to be the high point of 1988. In 15 starts since, he is 3-11 with a 6.62 ERA, lifting his season’s ERA to 5.43. In his last 89 2/3 innings, he has given up 110 hits.
Blyleven and the organization seemed to treat this game as a farewell.
What the future holds remains uncertain. Blyleven said last night that he has not ruled out returning to the Twins. “I’ll consider my options at the end of the season and go from there,” he answered a half-dozen times to a half-dozen similar questions. “I sound like an attorney, don’t I?”
He also sounded like a man who sensed that he will not be returning in 1989. His awareness of the possibility, he said, was such that he hoped for a 1-2-3 ninth and a strikeout on the final batter. He settled for a two-out walk, then a harmless popup by ex-teammate Don Baylor. As he left the mound, Blyleven doffed his hat to acknowledge scattered applause from the crowd of 47,620. A farewell?
“That was to my wife, who’s supported me for 18 years. Through the ups and downs, she’s always there,” Blyleven said. “I bet her that I would go the full nine, and I haven’t done that for a while.”
Manager Tom Kelly and pitching coach Dick Such wouldn’t say it, but the implication was clear that the complete game was a tribute. Blyleven threw 137 pitches, which on almost any other night would have precluded his being there at the end.
Player of the Game
Team Name G W L T PCT GB RS RA Oakland Athletics 158 101 57 0 .639 - 780 609 Minnesota Twins 158 88 70 0 .557 13.0 736 654 Kansas City Royals 157 82 75 0 .522 18.5 692 632 California Angels 159 75 84 0 .472 26.5 702 750 Chicago White Sox 157 69 88 0 .439 31.5 615 745 Texas Rangers 157 68 89 0 .433 32.5 615 718 Seattle Mariners 157 66 91 0 .420 34.5 647 722