The stage was set. Twins, White Sox. A mere half game separated the two teams involved.
As I tuned into the FSN North broadcast this evening, I heard pre-game analyst Telly Hughes confidently proclaim that there was "no one you'd rather have on the mound at the Dome" than Livan Hernandez. Somewhere in between choking on my iced tea and shaking my head in disbelief, I realized that there was indeed someone I would much rather have on the mound for this game — unfortunately, he is currently sporting a Rochester Red Wings uniform.
While I would not presume to claim that Francisco Liriano would have assured the Twins a victory against the hated Pale Hose, but I think that I can say with relative certainty that he would have turned in a better outing than the following:
4.0IP 9H 5R 5ER 2BB 1SO 1HR
Any line better than the preceding one would subsequently have likely saved the Twins from bringing in Boof Bonser, who predictably turned in the following stellar effort:
3.0IP 3H 3R 3ER 2BB 3SO 1HR
In the opinion of this writer, sending out a starter with a 5.48 ERA and on pace to break the Major League record for hits allowed in a season with the division lead hanging in the balance was not only unwise on the Twins' part, but practically handed the White Sox the game before home plate umpire Marty Foster donned his mask and yelled "Play Ball!" Furthermore, relieving said starter with Bonser, who has chronically proven to be the Twins' most reliable reliever (at surrendering runs if nothing else), did nothing to improve the situation.
At this point, what few supporters Hernandez has left amongst Twins fans will be pointing to his 10-8 record. Allow me to refute that defense very plainly. Livan's last four wins have come against the following teams: Cleveland, Texas, Arizona, and Washington. Not only were all four wins Twins blowouts in which he was staked to early leads, but one will also note that all four opponents boast losing records.
The outcome of the evening is simple. The Twins, win or lose tomorrow, will allow the White Sox to depart Minneapolis in sole possession of first place. To not have a better arm at the ready, especially in the wake of a roster move having been made, is pure stupidity on the part of the front office. I somehow suspect that the Twins' bench would have gotten along just fine without the services of one Adam Everett (they've managed just fine since May, thank you).
Frankly, even Baker and Blackburn on short rest for the final two games of this 4-game series would have been a better choice than trotting out Hernandez this evening. Were the Twins truly serious about making a push for a playoff spot, something would have been done to prevent the ball being given to Livan at all in this series.
Admittedly, there is a lot of baseball left to play, but going by the track record of decisions by Gardenhire and Bill Smith, one can only hope that this loss does not come back to haunt the Twins come October.
Thus, my plea to you, Bill Smith. Do whatever it takes to improve this pitching staff, even if it means eating the $5.5 million owed to Hernandez this season. The Twins are right on the cusp of being a serious contender, and surrendering a near automatic loss every fifth day is more than somewhat counterproductive.