The pen will make or break the twins; so far it’s mostly bending
The Twins headed to their bullpen to start the sixth inning on Wednesday, and Brock Stewart’s first pitch ended up hitting the outfield wall for a double.
Next paste: simple caries.
Next batter: Walk.
Bases loaded, no outs, a suddenly not-so-comfortable five-point lead.
Sip. Not yet.
Hey, crisis averted this time.
Stewart and Jovani Moran came out of trouble and Jhoan Duran bowed out on an encouraging outing for the bullpen by throwing the fastest pitch of his young career – just under 105 mph – in a win 7 -1 against the San Francisco Giants at Target Field.
A solid outing doesn’t take away worries about the bullpen, but the Twins really needed something positive after watching their bullpen sabotage too many games by posting 13 losses, the second most in major league baseball. .
Four relievers combined to pitch four scoreless innings Wednesday, with nine strikeouts. The Giants’ last nine outs have all come on puffs.
The work of the “pen” did not require much courage, but this group ended the game positively and not negatively. So this is progress.
Few things in baseball are more deflating than a bullpen that wastes shot. The Twins rank 11e in the bullpen ERA majors with the fifth-lowest opponent’s batting average. But it was the situational hiccups, the 13 defeats, the untimely marches that were killers.
The struggles cannot be directly linked to starting rotation and overwork, as was the case last season.
The team’s starters had 110 starts last season that ended before the sixth inning, MLB highs. The starters faced just 448 batters for the third time in a game, which was the second-lowest total of any team in the past 100 years.
This spin manipulation caused a shaking enclosure to be incinerated.
Overuse is not a problem this season. The Twins starters place fourth in innings pitched. Joe Ryan threw 107 pitches on Wednesday, scoring the 10e times a starter has hit 100 pitches this season. This already equals their tally from last season, in 50 games.
The bullpen should be well rested. The results don’t reflect that for a third of the season, raising questions about whether the front office needs immediate help.
The answer comes down to this: Jorge López sufficiently filling the role of dominant stopper in the eighth inning and Griffin Jax regaining his form and efficiency from last season.
If that happens, the bullpen doesn’t look so vulnerable. But the problems get worse when the more reliable options fail. Jax, a revelation last season after moving into a reliever role, accounted for six of the bullpen’s 13 losses.
The Twins had no complaints about Wednesday’s outing to avoid a sweep by the Giants.
Moran came in with the bases loaded and induced a ground ball on the first pitch. He added three strikeouts in the seventh inning – all on substitutions. If he can exploit his control issues, his change makes him an asset as a southpaw option.
“When I’m throwing strikes, I’ve been able to get good takedowns in good situations,” Moran said. “I have to keep throwing strikes. I know if I can throw the change for a strike, it can be a good throw.”
Duran also has good ground. And this good ground is even more spectacular after a few days of rest.
Manager Rocco Baldelli went close with a ninth-inning out because Duran hadn’t worked since Saturday.
Duran reached 103 mph on the radar. Then 104. Then 104.6.
“You look at the [score]board and you wonder if the board is good? said bench coach Jayce Tingler. “I guess in a way it’s not surprising, knowing what kind of arm he has.
Officially, his 104.6 clocked pitch was the fastest by a Statcast-era Twins pitcher (since 2015) and the eighth-fastest in MLB during that span.
When asked what he thought his speed threshold might be, Duran replied, “I don’t know yet.”
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