With the first week of the regular season at a close, the Minnesota Twins have already begun to struggle.
When scoring runs seemed to be a concern in Spring Training, it now seems to be the factor keeping the Minnesota Twins in the game. Pitching now takes the spotlight of concern, especially in the latter half of the game.
It seems that either starting pitchers run out of gas the longer they pitch, or relief pitchers are not able to secure a Twins lead or keep opposing teams from scoring. The bigger concern is relievers.
In the first five games, the Twins have given up 31 runs to the opposing team, 22 of those runs coming in the 5th inning or later. In the second game of the season, the Twins could not hold on to a 5-3 ninth inning lead as Glen Perkins gave up two runs to the Chicago White Sox to tie the game and send it to extra innings. In the 11th, a wild pitch by Samuel Deduno gave the White Sox the opportunity to score the winning run from third.
In their first game against the Cleveland Indians, the Twins were able to score two runs in the first inning, a lead they held onto until the sixth inning when starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey gave up a solo and two-run home run. Relief pitchers Casey Fien and Caleb Thielbar did not fare much better, going a total of 1.2 innings and giving up four runs in the seventh.
Opposing teams have also been able to hit eight home runs off Twins pitching, three of those coming in the third game of the series against the White Sox.
Last year, Twins relievers posted a 3.50 ERA and led Major League Baseball with innings pitched. In just the first four games of the season, the ERA has more than doubled at 8.78. Brian Duensing is the only Twins pitcher who has not given up any runs so far this season.
According to Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, pitching patterns have been hard to capture, but he feels that the bullpen will improve as the season moves on, especially when they settle into their respective roles.
“They’ve had they’re scuffles, and we’ve had to use people in different ways,” Gardenhire said. “I’m just hoping once we can settle things down, and get some guys to go seven, eight innings or whatever, that we can get these guys where we want to use them. But right now, it’s been hit or miss.”
I have stated before that in order for the Twins to win games in the regular season, they may have to rely on pitching to carry them through to the postseason. With the way their games have turned out in the first week of regular season, that scenario may not be a likely reality. Until pitching, and especially relief pitching, can find its groove in future games, the team may have to rely on producing runs in order to stay alive.