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Minnesota's Game 3 starting pitching options in the playoffs

Michael Pineda's suspension puts the Twins in a tough spot.

The Twins all but locked up a playoff spot over the weekend after sweeping a doubleheader from Cleveland on Saturday. Now fans can start looking ahead to the playoffs and wondering how the club will fare against some of the other top squads in the American League. With Michael Pineda’s recent suspension, there are plenty of questions about how the Twins will use their starting pitchers in the weeks ahead.

Beyond Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi, who would start for the Twins in the ALDS Game 3?

Kyle Gibson: 4.76 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 151 K, 50 BB, 155.0 IP

Minnesota used Kyle Gibson as a reliever on Sunday and things didn’t go exactly to plan. He entered the game after Fernando Romero had already put multiple runners on base and then Gibson surrendered a three-run home run. Only one of the earned runs was charged to Gibson, but the big hit came when he was pitching.

One of the bigger issues for Gibson are the health issues he has been battling for most of the season. In spring training, he was also diagnosed with E. coli that he contracted while doing mission work during the off-season. He entered camp around 200 pounds, which is down about 15 pounds from his desired weight. Recently, he returned from the 10-day IL after missing time because of ulcerative colitis.

Gibson struggles when batters get repeated looks at him in the same game, especially for the third time. His first time through the batting order he has held batters to a .248/.315/.376 (.691) slash line with a 63 to 18 strikeout to walk ratio. His third time through the line-up results in batters hitting .333/.386/.558 (.944) with eight of his 22 homers allowed coming in this situation.

Martin Perez: 4.89 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 125 K, 64 BB, 152.2 IP

Perez didn’t even start the year in Minnesota’s rotation, but he was a breath of fresh air when he was added to the rotation in mid-April. From April 15-May 23, he looked like one of the best pitchers in the league as he posted a 2.17 ERA and held batters to a .644 OPS. His cut fastball was a revelation and it helped him to strike out 44 batters in eight games. He looked like a candidate for the All-Star Game and it certainly seemed like Minnesota had made something out of nothing.

In his 18 starts since May 23, Perez has not looked like the same pitcher. His cut fastball, that had been his bread and butter during his hot start, has not looked the same. He has allowed more than a hit per inning and he’s only managed 69 strikeouts in 94 2/3 innings. With 16 home runs allowed, he has surrendered nearly a home run per appearance.

Right-handed batters have compiled an .817 OPS against him throughout the year. This isn’t good news for the Twins that will be facing the Yankees or the Astros in the ALDS and both clubs are very right-hand heavy. Only New York and Houston have higher OPS totals than Minnesota this year so there doesn’t seem like a scenario where Perez would be asked to see their line-up multiple times in the same game.

Bullpen game

After Friday night’s botched rainout, the Twins were left no available starting pitchers for Saturday’s doubleheader. This left the team with a unique strategic situation and a full September roster of bullpen arms. In Game 1, the Twins were able to shut out the Indians behind three innings from Devin Smeltzer and more than one inning from Zack Littell, Tyler Duffey and Taylor Rogers.

During Game 2, Lewis Thorpe was the lone pitcher to surrender any runs as he struggled with command throughout his appearance. Cody Stashak and Trevor May joined the shutout crew from Game 1, but the most impressive appearance was from 21-year old Brusdar Graterol. Over two innings, he was regularly sitting in triple-digits with his fastball and this pitch had more movement than any of his other big-league appearances. Add in a strong slider and he looked lights out. 

During last year’s playoffs, the Milwaukee Brewers used a bold strategy as they used Wade Miley as the starter and he only pitched to one batter. Manager Craig Counsell was hoping the Dodgers would load their line-up with left-handed hitters and then the Brewers quickly switched to a left-handed pitcher. Teams are likely more aware of this type of strategy, but it is something a team could try during October, especially one like the Twins with few starting pitching options.

This story originally appeared on Twins Daily and is being re-shared as part of a collaboration between Twins Daily and Bring Me The News

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