Had I been at Target Field Sunday afternoon I might have booed Ron Gardnhire’s decision to pull Kevin Slowey. I have been in attendance at a lot of major league baseball games, but have never had a sniff of a no-hitter. I might have booed, loudly.
That doesn’t mean I would have been correct in doing so.
No-hitters are fun, and they don’t happen terribly often. Only four men have thrown a no-hitter in a Minnesota Twins’ uniform, and the list adds just two more if you extend it over the 110-year history of the franchise. That’s six men in just over a century’s worth of games. Slowey could have joined Walter Johnson, Dean Chance, and Eric Milton on that short list.
Still, the Twins are an organization that is very careful with its starting pitchers. It can be maddening at times, and most of the research suggests that Bert Blyleven may be correct when he complains that the pitch ceiling can probably be extended to 120 pitches with no adverse consequences on the staff; but the fact is 100 pitches and change has been the ceiling for Kevin Slowey. Allowing him to extend himself beyond that limit just a week after a missed start due to elbow soreness in order to chase a personal milestone would have been beyond reckless.
Ron Gardenhire’s priorities in that situation should be a mixture of 1. win the current game, and 2. put the club in position to win more games. A no hitter, while perhaps a piece of history, would have helped accomplish neither, and may have actually put both goals in jeopardy.
What did happened on Sunday afternoon was a Twins win, good enough to put them three games ahead of the White Sox in the American League Central with about a month-and-a-half left in the season. That is a good thing. Now the Sox come to town for three games at Target Field – a chance for the Twins to put even more distance between themselves and second place.