Relief Woes Snap the Minnesota Twins' Five-Game Winning Streak on Sunday

Photo credit: Bruce Kluckhohn (USA TODAY Sports)

Minnesota took its first six-game losing streak in two seasons and rebounded for a five-game winning streak, specifically with three wins against Detroit this weekend before a 10-8 loss on Sunday.

Though the Twins still are looking for a higher standard of consistency on offense, the team’s pitching largely got it done in the first three games against the Tigers in this extended five-game series that concludes on Labor Day.

A pair of one-run victories included an exciting walk-off win against the rebuilding Tigers’ squad, victories that are significant considering Minnesota’s schedule gets undeniably tougher after Detroit leaves Minnesota.

Pitching, Pitching, Pitching

In a compressed schedule with four games in three days, Minnesota used their pitchers effectively. Two of the four games saw the Twins use just three pitchers in a game.

The series began with the Twins’ best pitcher this season: Randy Dobnak. Since Friday was a doubleheader, each game was only seven innings long, despite the second game going to eight innings due to the score being tied after seven. Dobnak threw five scoreless innings, allowing four hits and striking out four batters. He threw 61 pitches before he was relieved by Tyler Duffey and Taylor Rogers. Both Duffey and Rogers both pitched a scoreless inning to preserve the 2-0 victory.

The second game was another bullpen game for Minnesota, where it has largely had success this season. The Twins are now 4-2 in games using an opener. Manager Rocco Baldelli has used both Tyler Clippard and Matt Wisler in that opening role.

Wisler was the opener in Friday’s second game, just three days after recording a save against the White Sox, and got through the first two innings without giving up a hit. Of the six pitchers used by the Twins that game, only two, Sean Poppen and Caleb Thielbar gave up hits. Poppen was the only one of the six to give up a run — he gave up two in the third inning,

The Twins used just three pitchers once again in the third game. This time, Kenta Maeda got the start, the Twins’ next best starter behind Dobnak. He pitched six innings and allowed three runs on two hits, while striking out eight batters on 91 pitches. Clippard came in to relieve him for one inning, and Jorge Alcala finished the game off with two innings of work before the Twins’ walkoff win.

Relief Woes on Sunday

After Rich Hill recorded five innings of two-run ball on Sunday, the Twins’ relievers gave away what at one point became a 6-2 lead. Trevor May gave up three runs in 2/3 of an inning. After that, Duffey came in and gave up one earned run, while two crossed the plate in his 1 1/3 innings.

After that, Sergio Romo came in and gave up the Twins’ lead with a home run allowed. To add to the relief struggles, Devin Smeltzer entered and allowed two runs in 1 1/3 innings, and Detroit had a 10-8 lead heading into the ninth inning.

The Twins’ successful bullpen from the previous three games reversed course as some relievers where each who pitched on Sunday had an off day allowing multiple runs in an inning or more of work.

Late Inning Comeback and Buxton Walkoff

The Twins were down 3-2 going into the bottom of the ninth inning on Saturday. Starting with ad Josh Donaldson walk and a Nelson Cruz single, there were runners on first and second with one out for Miguel Sano. After Donaldson replaced by Ehire Adrianza to pinch-run, Sano hit a single to left field to score Adrianza and tie the game.

Eddie Rosario got on base after his hit forced a groundout that took Sano off the basepath, but Cruz advanced to third base.

In comes Byron Buxton. Buxton legged out a ball hit to the shortstop that would have been an out for nearly every other hitter in the Twins’ lineup. Fortunately for Minnesota, Buxton is one of the fastest runners in MLB and he beat the throw to the bag, giving the Twins a 4-3 victory.

The Twins’ top-two long-touted prospects both factored in to Minnesota avoiding that loss to Detroit, and it came at the most clutch moment possible, while the Twins have been especially desperate for any offense in recent weeks.

Buxton being back in the lineup regularly undoubtedly improves not only team defense, but also baserunning speed and offense compared to Jake Cave or LaMonte Wade Jr.

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