Sunday, July 3, 2011

Twins claim Capps is still the closer

The closing of games for the Twins took a wild and interesting turn in the last 48 hours at Target Field. On Saturday night, Matt Capps entered the field through the bullpen gate with a three run lead. The Brewers were unimpressed with this large deficit and clawed their way to four runs off of the Twins closer.

The largest regular season crowd in Target Field history was left with a bitter taste in their mouth after the Twins piddled away a seven run lead. Capps was forced to exit the game to a smattering of boos from the Target Field fans. The same fans that were struggling to drown out the "Let's Go Brewers" chants echoing from the upper levels of Target Field.

Following the game, Capps said all of the right things to the local media. He knew that he did not have his best stuff on Saturday evening. The Brewers hit all of the right buttons in the ninth to complete the come from behind victory. Capps made sure to point out that he was hoping for another chance on Sunday afternoon.

He would get that opportunity...

The Twins did their best impression of the Brewers from the night before and came back from an early deficit to take the lead in the late innings. The Twins were down by as much as five runs before the offense picked away at the Brewers pitching. Matt Capps was handed a two-run lead for another save opportunity in front of the hometown fans. The fans did not quickly forget the horrors of the previous night and greeted Capps with a combination of boos and cheers.

The top of the Brewers order was due up to face the Twins closer in the ninth inning. Capps seemed to have better stuff than the night before but the Twins were not taking any chances in this game. The Brewers were able to get runners two runners on with only one out. Prince Fielder was stepping to the plate with the game hanging in the balance.

Even with the Brewers star coming up, Capps had great numbers against Fielder (0-7, 3 K). Regardless of the numbers, Ron Gardenhire made the decision to turn to lefty Glen Perkins for the final two outs of the game. Two strikeouts later the Twins left the field celebrating a series victory over a first place ball club.

Glen Perkins has been the brightest star in an otherwise dull bullpen so far in 2011. This collection of relief pitchers has provided a number of question marks for the Twins over the course of the first half of the season. Injuries and spotty starting pitching have forced the Twins to look at a lot of different pitching options in the later half of games.

Fans across Twins Territory have been spoiled by the consistent run of dominant closing that was provided by Joe Nathan before his elbow injury. Now there is some unrest as the ending of games has been a little more nail-biting. After each pitch, fans hold their breath and shield their eyes from the dread they anticipate is coming.

Ron Gardenhire made a move on Sunday evening that would have been unheard of during the dominant Joe Nathan closing days. He took the ball from the team's closer when the closer still had a good opportunity to get the save. Could be a turning point in the philosophy of a manager that has been at the helm for close to a decade?

Gardy made sure to clarify the closer role after the game and to let everyone know that Capps is still the ninth inning man. But with the option of a resurgent Joe Nathan and a budding Glen Perkins, a change could be on the horizon for the Twins.

And that could be a change that does not involve as many chewed up fingernails...

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