A Sore Heel, A Phantom Home Run, and Some Second Guessing

Game 24: Indians 5 (10-13), Twins 4 (15-9) – 11 innings

Historically, the Twins organization has had a lot of success with bullpen usage. Starting with Tom Kelly and Jeff Reardon, having a well-defined closer role has been a hallmark of this team. In the Gardenhire era, it seems, the roles have become even more rigid. It works most of the time, but a handful of games a year leave you scratching your head. Saturday night’s game in Cleveland was one of those games. While Jon Rauch sat and waited, Alex Burnett and Jesse Crain combined to ultimately allow the game-winning run. Earlier in the game, a clearly struggling Matt Guerrier faced two left-handed hitters leading to the tying run. It is hard to get worked up about it anymore, and to be sure it is less of an offense than leaving Joe Nathan sitting in the bullpen; it is simply the way things are.

Aside from bullpen usage, Saturday’s game exposed some of the weaknesses of this otherwise strong team. The big one seems to be bench depth. We saw it earlier in the week when Denard Span was thrown out, and we saw it last night when Joe Mauer was out due to a bruised heel. Span’s absence left a scarily static outfield, while Mauer’s left an over-his-head-looking Drew Butera to get a few too many high-leverage at-bats. There were really no bench moves to be made. Some of that is due to injury, but some of that is due to the fact that there really is no bench to speak of. When your best move is to substitute Delmon Young in for defense in left field, it might be time to look for some help for the bench.

To add to the frustration of the night, Justin Morneau hit a home run that put the Twins ahead two, but us FSN viewers never saw it. Instead, we got commercials.

WPA Stars of the Game
1. Shin-Soo Choo
2. Jamey Wright
3. Azdrubal Cabrera

AL Central Standings (through Saturday)
1. Min 15-9, 122-92, –
2. Det 15-10, 123-115, 0.5
3. Cle 10-13, 82-108, 4.5
4. Chi 10-14, 99-117, 5.0
5. KC 10-14, 103-131, 5.0

Today’s pitchers: Francisco Liriano vs. David Huff. Tentatively, it will be Baker, Blackburn, and Slowey for the Detroit series.

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