It looked like the Twins finally had one in the bag when Scott Baker turned a 5-0 lead against the Angels over the bullpen after seven excellent innings. It should have been the elusive third victory for Baker, who had seen the Twins score more than three runs in just three of his nine starts.
Alas, the eighth proved terribly unkind to the club once again.
Alex Burnett, Dusty Hughes and Jim Hoey combined to give up five runs in the frame, and Hoey went on to take the loss in the ninth as the Angels stormed back to win 6-5. The Twins, already with baseball’s worst record, fell to 16-33.
Incredibly, the Twins have given up 49 runs in the eighth inning of their 49 games. We’re no experts, but that’s almost like a run per game or something.
It seems likely that more changes are in store for the Twins bullpen after this one. The three pitchers who combined to blow the lead — Burnett, Hughes and Hoey — have ERAs of 7.11, 9.95 and 10.61, respectively. It’d be no surprise at all to Burnett and Hughes go down Saturday, with Chuck James and perhaps former first-round pick Carlos Gutierrez coming up to replace them. Anthony Slama is another in line for a chance.
The Twins have more problems than the pen, and the shuffling of the chairs there probably won’t do a lot of good. But they have to do something and since a long-term benching of Delmon Young probably isn’t in the cards, they’re low on alternatives.
Mark Buehrle last pitched in 2015, for the Toronto Blue Jays. He was still pretty effective and toyed with the idea of pitching last season, but he never signed anywhere and is, for all intents and purposes, retired.
Now at least his number will be retired officially. It will be done by the club for which he had the most success and with which he is, obviously, most associated:
Buehrle pitched for the White Sox for 12 years. He was the model of consistency and durability in Chicago, logging over 200 innings a season in every single season but his rookie year, when he was primarily a reliever. He was a solid defender, a multi-time All-Star, tossed a perfect game in 2009 and helped the Chisox to their first World Series title in 88 years in 2005.
He was also one of baseball’s fastest workers, so I’m going to assume that, in his honor, the number retirement ceremony will last, like, a minute 20, after which everyone can get on with their dang day.
Terry Francona just won the American League pennant, the Manager of the Year Award and his Cleveland Indians will likely be among the favorites to win it all in 2017. Between that and his 17-year track record as one of the best managers in the business, he will have a job, somewhere, for as long as he wants one.
He said yesterday, however, that his body will likely limit how long he manages:
“It gets harder and harder physically. It really does. It takes me longer to recharge every year . . . I’ve had a lot of surgeries, a lot of health problems. It just takes a toll on you. I love [the game of baseball]. I really do, but I can’t see myself doing something else. But there is going to come a day when I feel like I’m shortchanging the team or the organization. That’s not fair.
“Even now, during batting practice, I’ll come in and get off my feet a little bit. I think everybody understands. But when there comes a day when it gets in the way, I’m going to have to pull back, and it’s not because I don’t love managing. You have to have a certain amount of energy to do this job right.”
Francona experienced some chest pains and had an elevated heart rate that caused him to leave a game early last season. In 2005 a similar episode caused him to miss three games while managing the Red Sox. He also has a history of embolisms and blood clots, some of which have hospitalized him.
With multiple World Series rings there isn’t much more in baseball that Francona can accomplish, but here’s hoping he sticks around and accomplishes a lot more before he trades in his baseball spikes for golf spikes and calls it a career.