Monday, August 16, 2010

Gardenhire Lifts Slowey After Seven No-Hit Innings

Yesterday, Minnesota Twins pitcher Kevin Slowey had a good chance to become the sixth pitcher throw a no-hitter this season. But Twins manager Ron Gardenhire had other plans.

After throwing seven no-hit innings against the Oakland Athletics with a 1-0 lead, Gardenhire lifted Slowey for reliever Jon Rauch who surrendered a hit with one out in the top of the eighth. The Twins went on to win the game 4-2.

Normally, I don't like managers lifting pitchers in the midst of throwing no-hitters. The late Preston Gomez was notorious for doing just that. While managing the San Diego Padres in 1970, he lifted Clay Kirby, who had a no-hitter going into the ninth against the New York Mets, for a pitcher. Four years later, Gomez did the same thing while managing the Houston Astros. Don Wilson had pitched eight no-hit innings against the Cincinnati Reds when Gomez also lifted him for a pinch hitter.

It is worth noting that both Kirby and Wilson were losing their games despite the no-nos. So Gomez sent up pinch hitters to get some offense going. It didn't work on either occasion. Cito Gaston struck out when pinch hitting for Kirby while Tommy Helms grounded to short in his pinch hit for Wilson.

One could understand Gomez's strategy if he was in a pennant race. But the 1970 Padres and the 1974 Astros were both out of the pennant race. By the third of week of July, the Padres were thirty games back of the Cincinnati Reds in the NL West. Now granted, the Astros did have a winning record but they were 16 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West at the time. The Astros had no hope of playing baseball in October.

The 2010 Twins, on the other hand, are very much in a pennant race. Entering today, they have a three game lead on the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central. The Twins need all hands on deck. It is also worth remembering that Slowey had to miss his last scheduled start due to elbow tendonitis. So is it worth risking two more innings on a tender elbow? Besides, there also tends to be a let down effect after throwing a no-hitter. Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Matt Garza has not won a game in three starts since no-hitting the Detroit Tigers on July 26th. If Gardenhire did leave Slowey in the game and he managed to throw the no-hitter there's a good chance he probably wouldn't win his next few starts and those few starts could cost the Twins a pennant.

Now if I were sitting in Target Field yesterday I probably would have booed loudly. How often does a fan get to see a no-hitter in person? But would a fan rather see a no-hitter on the condition his team never wins the World Series? Twins fans should give it a second thought.

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