Twins opt not to add pitching reinforcements on September 1 and pay the price

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Last night’s Twins-Tigers game was one of the worst I’ve ever seen, as the two teams combined for 13 innings of sloppy, mistake-filled play that included a seemingly endless array of botched double plays and blown leads.
As a Twins fan there are approximately 100 different things I could complain about from the agonizing evening, but the one that stands out is Minnesota’s refusal to call up pitching reinforcements from Triple-A when rosters expanded Wednesday.
Third-string catcher Jose Morales and infielder Trevor Plouffe were the only two players added to the roster by the Twins and they paid the price last night. Scott Baker left his start after two innings with elbow soreness and the Twins had several relievers unavailable because of minor maladies, so when both Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain blew leads in regulation the pitching choices got very strange.
Crain pitched for the 21st time in 34 games–which is an arm-wrecking 101-appearance pace–and was allowed to throw a season-high 40 pitches after never being used for even 30 pitches before. After running him into the ground the Twins then turned to Brian Duensing for two innings despite the fact that he just threw 103 pitches in a start Tuesday. And then they brought in Nick Blackburn, who was scheduled to start tonight.
Obviously teams don’t plan for 13-inning games in which their starter departs after two innings, but if the Twins had simply called up a few pitchers from Triple-A when rosters expanded Wednesday none of that would have been an issue and they wouldn’t have overworked Crain and Duensing while screwing up the rotation for the next week. Alex Burnett, Anthony Slama, Pat Neshek, Rob Delaney, and Anthony Swarzak are all on the 40-man roster and could have been added to the bullpen two days earlier.
Instead the Twins added zero pitching reinforcements, blew out the entire pitching staff in a 13-inning loss, and are now planning to call up various fresh arms for tonight’s game. In fact, the rotation is so screwed up now that they’re adding 27-year-old Matt Fox to the 40-man roster just so he can make his big-league debut starting tonight against the first-place Rangers. Without last night’s disaster there’s a decent chance Fox never pitches in the majors. Good for him, bad for the Twins.
And it all could have been avoided by simply expanding the roster on September 1.

Phillies-Mets could get contentious tonight

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As the Mets were wrapping up a 9-0 shellacking of the Phillies on Tuesday night, reliever Jacob Rhame threw a pitch up and in to first baseman Rhys Hoskins with two outs in the ninth inning. The pitch sailed behind Hoskins’ back. The slugger wasn’t happy about the scare, understandably. Players began to trickle out of their respective dugouts, but a fracas was avoided.

Hoskins was skeptical that Rhame simply missed his spot. Per MLB.com’s Thomas Harrigan, Hoskins said, “He didn’t miss up and in the rest of the inning, so I’ll let you decide. I would assume teams are pitching me in because that’s where they think they can get me out, and that’s fine. That’s part of the game. Again, I think most guys are capable of pitching inside and not missing that bad.”

Teammate Bryce Harper said, “I don’t get it. I understand that two of their guys got hit yesterday. But, I mean, if it’s baseball and you’re going to drill somebody, at least hit him in the [butt]. Not in the head. You throw 98, it’s scary now. You could kill somebody. Lose your eyesight. That’s bigger than the game.”

Indeed, two Mets were hit by pitches on Monday night. José Álvarez hit Jeff McNeil in the seventh inning, which advanced a base runner. In the very next at-bat, Juan Nicasio hit Pete Alonso with a first-pitch fastball. It was obvious neither was intentional as the Phillies were only down two runs and hitting both batters advanced base runners and led to runs scoring. It is less obvious that Rhame’s pitch to Hoskins was unintentional, but he showed empathy in his post-game comments. Rhame said, “When you accidentally sail one, it’s probably pretty scary. I’d get [angry], too.”

Will Wednesday night’s series finale be contentious? Despite being “fairly upset,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said, “We do not retaliate, and we do not throw at anybody intentionally,” Jake Seiner of the Associated Press reports.

Mets manager Mickey Calloway didn’t give as straight an answer. Per MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, Calloway said, “I think at this point, you just go out there and beat people, and win. … For now, I don’t feel like anything has been intentional at us that has warranted anything from our side.” If that changes, however, Calloway said, “They’re going to have each other’s backs.”

Hopefully, neither side decides to take justice into their own hands. But, welcome to the NL East in 2019. The Mets lead the Phillies by one game, and the Braves and Nationals by 1.5 games. It’s going to be a knock-down, drag-out division fight all year long.