Matt Capps looked to support the tremendous starting effort of Nick Blackburn by closing out a 1-0 win at Target Field. Capps ran into trouble right out of the bullpen. He walked Melky Cabrera on four pitches and all of those pitches were fastballs that missed the zone. Capps would coax two outs from the Royals before giving up a 2-run shot to Eric Hosmer, the Royals star rookie.
The Twins have turned to Capps for 22 save opportunities and out of those chances he has converted 15 saves. His strikeouts per nine innings have dropped significantly this season from 6.7 per nine innings pitched to 4.8 per nine innings pitched. Opponents batting average and his WHIP are right around his career marks during this season. He has already given up more HR this season than in all of last season in less than half of the appearances.
After the game, Ron Gardenhire was forced to stick up for his closer after another tough loss. Capps did not come through for the team but Gardenhire made sure to let reporters know that the team did not come through in various offensive opportunities.
"We scored one run tonight, all right? We had plenty of chances to score more. Everything gets thrown on the closer-- sure he gave it up in the end, but a lot of people misfired too. The young man's a very good pitcher and our closer."The Twins cannot afford to give up games in the late innings if the team wants to stay in contention for the playoffs. Both Joe Nathan and Glen Perkins are waiting in the wings to provide a late inning spark for the Twins. Gardenhire could be forced to make a mid-season closer change for the second season in a row.
Twins fans have their pitchforks and torches ready to hunt down Capps with every hit, walk, and blown save that he is compiling. But for the Twins to be successful, Capps will need to play an important role in the bullpen.
With every appearance, it looks as if that role could be a set-up spot for another closer.