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Twins 9, Tigers 4: Another one gets away

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Sometimes, your bullpen’s got it. Then there are days like this.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Minnesota Twins Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

It was a “bullpen day” for the Tigers, and it started off relatively well against the Twins. Then, through a couple of recently-reliable relievers having off days, it ended in a 9-4 loss, ensuring the first series defeat for the Tigers in quite some time.

Kyle Funkhouser got the start for Detroit. He’d had one start before, in a similar situation, on June 13 against the White Sox. In that spot start, he acquitted himself rather well, going 2 23 innings and giving up one hit and no runs in what eventually turned out to be a 4-1 loss. Out of the bullpen this year, The Funky One has been mostly fantastic, with a couple of exceptions.

Rookie righty Bailey Ober started for Minnesota. Drafted out of college in the 12th round in 2017 by the Twins, he made his debut on May 18, and it’s been feast-or-famine for him all year. His previous outing was on July 5 against those same south-siders, and it was the best outing of his career, going five innings, surrendering no runs and, presumably, giving no quarter to the pale-behosed scoundrels. Ober’s innings are being limited this year; he had not pitched into the sixth in any of his starts. Also, he’s 6’9”, which means he’s a rather tall fellow, and when he releases the ball he’s a little closer to the hitter than your average pitcher.

Ober started off hot, striking out a pair before Robbie Grossman dumped a single into short left field. After that, he struck out Eric Haase, and no, in my books, that is not “striking out the side.”

Niko Goodrum, batting lefty (see the stats at the bottom), smacked a solo line-drive home run in the second to right to open the scoring. Zack Short went back-to-back, sneaking one just over the wall in left-centre.

Short was a late addition to the lineup, as Nomar Mazara was replaced due to “not feeling well.”

Through two innings, Funkhouser had thrown 39 pitches (22 for strikes), given up a pair of singles, walked one and whiffed two. His counterpart, Ober, had thrown 52 pitches (33 strikes); the Twins’ plan for Ober is to limit his innings, but the Tigers were doing a decent job of making him throw extra pitches.

Funkhouser’s day was done with one out in the third; he barely hit Jorge Polanco on the toe, and Daniel Norris was brought in to face the lefty Trevor Larnach, who struck out on three pitches. Nelson Cruz singled up the middle, with Polanco taking third. Cruz stole second, but then struck out Alex Kiriloff to end the threat.

Eric Haase and Jeimer Candelario walked to lead off the fourth; at that point Ober had thrown 74 pitches. Ober was left in to face Harold Castro, who singled to left, scoring Haase.

A Goodrum forceout that left runners on the corners with one out marked the end of Ober’s day, and Derek Law (no relation) came on to face Short; a sacrifice fly was hit, Candelario scored, and the score became 4-0.

Erasmo Ramirez threw a delightfully boring fourth inning: groundout, flyout, strikeout. He followed that up with another 1-2-3 inning in the fifth. His luck ran out with one out in the sixth, though: Cruz singled again, Kiriloff hit the next pitch into the stands to halve the gap to 4-2, and the Twins started their comeback.

And then... Joe Jimenez. Oy. He’d been great recently, and he was entrusted by A.J. Hinch to hold a lead in the late innings here. With one out in the seventh, singles by Andrelton Simmons and Luis Arraez placed two runners on for Polanco, and he hit a three-run home run to put the Twins up 5-4. After walking Cruz, Derek Holland came in and got the third out, but the damage was done.

In the eighth, Jonathan Schoop led off with a double, then advanced to third on a groundout. Then he was stranded there as Candelario, the tying run at the plate, struck out to end the inning. That’s frustrating.

Jose Cisnero took over in the eighth, and then it all fell apart in earnest. A pair of walks and a pair of singles scored two, then Ian Krol came on to try to put out the fire. Instead, he carried a gasoline can to the mound; a wild pitch scored one, and as Haase picked up the ball, it squirted out of his hand and flew into the Twins dugout, allowing the final run to score.

The Tigers and Twins play again on Sunday at 2:10 pm EDT, the last game before the All-Star Break. Here’s hoping Detroit can salvage at least one win out of the four-game series, which has turned into a real clunker.

A Debate Possibly Worth Having

Should Kyle Funkhouser be moved to the rotation?

Argument for: the Tigers have been short of starters due to injuries, and Funkhouser has been great this year.

Argument against: Funkhouser has been extremely valuable out of the bullpen, so let’s not upset that apple cart.

I’m of the mind that he should be kept where he is, especially in the middle of a season. If the Tigers want to move him into a starting role next spring, that’s one thing. But in July? I’m not sure that’s a great idea. It’s very tempting, though, I’ll give you that.

UmpWatch™

Pitch #5: a called third strike on Willi Castro.

Updates on Various Pitchers

Stats and Numbers and Things

  • Coming into today, Bailey Ober’s stats against lefty and righty batters were markedly different. Left-handed hitters were slashing .351/.451/.649 for an OPS of 1.080; right-handed hitters were slashing .172/.197/.362 for an OPS of .559.
  • From June 18 through last night’s game, Robbie Grossman has had a tough time at the plate, going 9-for-59 for a .178 average. But, add his 17 walks to that, and his on-base percentage was still a decent .342 over that same stretch.
  • The Minnesota Twins have players named Kepler and Coulombe. If you’re a physics nerd, you enjoy that a lot (even with the silent “e” thrown in there). Change “Kiriloff” to “Kirchhoff” and now you’re really in business. And the “Law” name is pretty obvious, too.
  • On this date in 1973, The Bahamas gained full independence from the UK. I’ve never been there before, but it sure looks pretty.