The Twins entered yesterday ranked 21st in the major leagues in runs against.
Read that last sentence again. I'm not talking about something minor or quirky here. I'm talking about runs given up, arguably half the game. We've talked a lot about the middle infield, and the #2 hitter, and the bottom of the order, but it is damn hard to be a legitimate contending team when you're pitching and defense are ranked in the bottom third of the majors.
This weekend reflected that ranking. Friday's game can probably be written off in part because Nick Blackburn was just left in too long, but Ron Gardenhire has made that mistake several times this season, and four innings later we saw why. Having milked three innings from the two reliable relievers he has, Gardenhire turned the game over to the rest of the bullpen and watched his closely contested game turn into an 11-5 rout.
Neither Gardenhire or the Twins have many options at this point in the 'pen. Jose Mijares is the third most relieable arm in the bullpen, and he's walked 17 guys in 35 innings while primarily facing left-handed batters. RA Dickey started well, but has an ERA of 8.38 since July 1st. Brian Duensing has been servicable, though he has a WHIP of 1.50 as a reliever. Bobby Keppel looked promising, but has now given up 11 runs and 15 hits in his last six appearances. And Jesse Crain continues to be a wreck.
That's three players - Dickey, Keppel and Crain - who are essentially dead wood right now, waiting to be trimmed. And this weekend, they all got to pitch, because the Twins have three starting pitchers who are also maddeningly inconsistent. Glen Perkins has been good when healthy, very bad when not, and now we don't know what he is. (Though it's worth noting that with an infield defense as full of holes as this one, he deserved a better fate on Sunday.) Anthony Swarzak is a young pitcher, and pitching like a young pitcher. And Francisco Liriano has struggled with his control and self-confidence from inning-to-inning, let alone game-to-game.
How bad is it? I'm including Scott Baker, who has a 4.86 ERA as one of the good starters. The final count is four reliable pitchers, five inconsistent pitchers, and three guys who could very well be swapped out to give a Rochester guy his chance.
That's the situation the Twins face with two months left. The final third of the season is supposed to be when a team makes a run. But this year, the run is going to need to be powered by the Twins arms, not their legs.