Minnesota Twins: Ron Gardenhire's Strategy On Friday Night

Adam BernacchioAnalyst IIIMay 3, 2011

BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 20:  Manager Ron Gardenhire of the Minnesota Twins watches the game against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on April 20, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Nothing confuses me more than when managers have this belief that they can’t use their closer other than the ninth inning of a game. Even if the game hangs in the balance in the eighth inning, some managers will stick with a lesser pitcher instead of bringing in their supposed best pitcher because it’s not the ninth or it’s not a “save” situation.

One of the managers who does this on a consistent basis is Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire.

I have watched enough Twins games this year to be confused by a lot of what Gardenhire does, but Friday night in Kansas City took the cake.

The Twins were leading the Kansas City Royals 3-2 headed into the bottom of the eighth inning. Alex Burnett was in the game to face Jeff Francoeur, Wilson Betemit and Kila Ka’aihue.

Burnett retired Francoeur via strikeout, but then allowed a double to the suddenly super-human Betemit and then an infield single to Ka’aihue.

Before the Ka’aihue AB, the Twins had a 63 percent chance of winning the game. After the Ka’aihue AB, the game was a coin flip. Each team had a 50 percent chance of winning.

If the game is a coin flip in the eighth inning, I am going with my guy. And that guy for Gardenhire should have been Matt Capps.

Capps pitched just two-thirds of an inning the day before, and before that hadn’t pitched in four days. There was no excuse for Capps not being fresh.

More so, the Twins had just called up Burnett from the minors. I am not sure I would chosen a guy who just was called up from the minors over my closer.

But Gardenhire decided to stick with Burnett, and that move cost him.

With Jarrod Dyson running for Ka’aihue, Dyson attempted to steal second and Drew Butera threw the ball into center field. Betemit scored and Dyson went to third.

Now, the game is tied at three and the game go from a coin flip to the Royals having a 74 percent chance of winning. With the game tied, Gardenhire has to do everything he can to keep the game tied.

Instead, he sticks with Burnett in the highest-leverage situation in the game.

Burnett walked Bryan Pena and the Royals had first and third with one out. Bringing Capps in to face Alcides Escobar to try to get the double-play would have been the right move, but Burnett was allowed to pitch to Escobar and Escobar hit a sacrifice pop-up to short (the ball was a shallow fly ball to short), and it was 4-3 Royals and going to the ninth with a 83 percent chance of winning.

What more puzzling about Gardenhire’s logic here is that he was quick to pull starter Scott Baker in the seventh to go to Burnett in the first place. It’s okay for Burnett to pitch more than one inning, but not Capps?

The Twins are a hot mess and need to get every win they can before it gets late, early. Gardenhire didn’t go to Capps when he should have because of some unwritten rule that your closer can’t get more than three outs in a game, and it cost him.

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