The sagging bullpen ruptured again in Kansas City Wednesday night, as the Minnesota Twins dropped their 102nd game of the season in familiar fashion. Three eighth-inning runs spurred Kansas City to victory, a win that quickly was dampened by the team being eliminated from the playoffs shortly thereafter.
Ervin Santana made his final start of the season, and pitched respectably like he has for most of the year. But again, the bullpen failed him, and as a result this current Twins team is tied with the 1982 bunch for the most losses in post-D.C. history. Unfortunately, there are still four more opportunities for that record to fall.
Here’s what we saw from our vantage point:
Brian Dozier is in some kind of funk
Dozier last homered on Sept. 22, and is 1-for-27 in the six games since. And while that’s a real drag — so to is the Twins’ 1-5 record in those games — it’s frankly amazing how well Dozier has hit this month in spite of this rough stretch. In 25 games in September, Dozier has still hit .271/.328/.589. That’s a .916 OPS in September, which is still higher than his season mark (.892) and right around where he was when this skid started (.927). He still has four more games, but that 100th RBI has been fleeting. That last home run — off Anibal Sanchez to lead off the first game of a doubleheader one week ago — was also his last RBI.
Santana looked decent for the Twins
It’s hard to jump out of your skin for five innings, two earned runs, four hits, three strikeouts and a walk, but it was pretty much a quintessential Ervin start. The sole blemish was a two-run home run to Eric Hosmer. Basically, the ERA for a start in which a pitcher allows two earned runs over five innings is 3.60; Santana’s season-ending mark is 3.38. He was pulled after 77 pitches (44 strikes), and that was most likely his decision as manager Paul Molitor said on the last homestand that he’d give Ervin free reign to do as he pleased down the stretch regarding if he wanted to pitch or not. For the most part, he ended the season on a pretty high note. Santana made 30 starts for the sixth time in the last seven seasons, and the 3.38 ERA is the second-best of his 12-year MLB career. It’ll be interesting to see how he’s viewed by the new front office, as he’d seem to be a sell-high candidate with two reasonable years left on his deal — his age-34 and -35 seasons.
Jason Vargas looked good in his third start of the season
The offense had no answer for the soft-tossing Vargas, who sliced and diced the Twins with most fastballs and changeups, though he did mix in 14 curves among his 87 pitches. None of those pitches broke 90 mph, but he got eight swinging strikes on a good changeup, and another two swings and misses on the curve. Ten swinging strikes on 87 pitches comes out to 11.5 percent — a very nice rate. After not making a single start prior to mid-September for the Royals this season, Vargas had it going on Thursday night — though the inept Twins offense may have been at least partly complicit — as he at one point set down 15 batters in a row.
There was nearly some Vargas on Vargas violence
The left-hander gave way to reliever Kevin McCarthy in the sixth, and Kennys Vargas promptly greeted him with a blast to right center field to tie the game at 2-2. The 1-2 pitch that Vargas blasted was an 86 mph slider, and it came after three straight fastballs between 93-94 mph. Kennys missed homering off Jason by a grand total of three batters. For Kennys — who for some reason didn’t start the first game of the series, and came in as a defensive replacement — that was home run No. 9 on the season in just 159 PA. That’s a pace for 32 home runs over 600 plate appearances. He’s hitting a robust .244/.352/.519 on the season.
The Vargas home run also broke up another dubious streak for the Twins:
With the Orioles win in Toronto, the Royals were eliminated
Hyun-Soo Kim hit a late home run at Rogers Centre as the Orioles beat the Blue Jays 3-2. That made the Royals the fourth consecutive World Series champion to miss the playoffs the next season.
Oh, and there was a familiar face involved in Toronto last night — the winning pitcher for Baltimore was Brian Duensing. The first 41 wins in his career came in a Twins uniform, and this was the first with a different club.
Up Next: RHP Kyle Gibson vs. LHP Danny Duffy – 6:15 p.m. Thursday, Kauffman Stadium
Notes & Quotes
- Team president Dave St. Peter told a crowd at Great River Greening’s annual breakfast Wednesday morning at the University of Minnesota, “Where we screwed up is having a sh*tty baseball team.”
- The Twins offense has lagged in September, as the team is hitting .227/.298/.415. That makes for an 88 wRC+, which ties the Twins with the Orioles for 24th this month. Split out by slash-line stats, the Twins are 29th in batting average, 26th in on-base percentage and 17th in slugging percentage. As a result, it might not be too surprising that the team is second in baseball in home runs this month with 40. Death by solo home runs, they call it.
- Minnesota is 25th in team ERA in September at 5.00. The starters — who have the worst ERA this season — rank 17th this month with a 4.47 ERA, while the relievers rank 29th with a 5.76 mark. Only the Phillies are worse, but that’s with a ghastly 8.07 ERA.
- Twins relievers rank 12th in MLB in strikeout rate this month (9.1 K/9).
- The Twins are 11th in attendance in the AL as 1,963,912 fans bought tickets this season. That ranking can only decrease with four road games to close out the season.