Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Magic Number?

No, I'm not talking about the infamous elimination number we start to see this time of year, I'm talking about the magic number the Twins have been taking advantage of:

At least that's what Joe Christensen reports in his blog that La Velle Neal believes:

La Velle called tonight’s comeback in a text message: “The sixth inning has been magic for the Twins.” Sure enough, after two more runs tonight, the Twins have now scored 19 sixth-inning runs in their past eight games.

For some reason I just kind of glanced over that before the game today, and as I watched the Twins try to claw their way back from the 5-3 deficit, I noticed the innings tick by until -- the 6th. And when I saw Brian Bass warming up? Well, let's just say that I used to cry and moan and throw (soft) things at the TV last year when Bassy would take the mound at the Dome. Tuesday night? I knew the comeback was about to start.

Oh, and what was the score they tied it up at?

Oh yeah, 6! Sports are crazy aren't they? But maybe there's something to this. Let's look at those games where we fought back in the 6th inning.

The Twins lost to the rangers 8-5. The Twins scored 3 runs in the 6th inning. It started out great, with Mauer doubling. Casilla then flew out to left. Kubel walked and Cuddyer flew out to center. Then Tommy Hunter was replaced by Darren O'Day. O'Day came in and immediately walked Crede to fill up the bases. But he didn't stop there! He issued a free pass to Delmon to bring in the 1st run of the 6th inning.  LNP followed up with a 2RBI single that ushered O'Day out of the game, and Neftali Feliz came in to close the door by getting Span to ground out. Ok, so, this is how it happened: the Rangers starting pitcher got into the 6th inning and his 3rd time through the order we start to figure him out and his pitch count gets to him. An ineffective reliever is brought in and BOOM, we have a fighting chance until the Rangers stop fooling around with their big lead and bring in the lock down guys. Seems pretty normal.

The Twins beat the Rangers 9-6! This time we score 4 runs in the 6th. The rangers leave Scott Feldman in longer and so his meltdown is even bigger. After a lead-off single misplayed in the outfield to allow Orlando Cabrera to second, things get out of hand. Feldman retires Mauer, but Harris, Cuddyer, and Crede all single and the damage is underway. Gomez is retired, but Feldman walks LNP and then the Rangers realize it's time for the bullpen to solve things and Jason Jennings is brought in to erase the threat.

Twins win 5-4. And we score 4 in the 6th ... again. Oh look, their starter -- Kevin Millwood -- is still pitching! So the Twins figure him out and start to pound him. Cuddyer doubles, Crede dounbles, and just when Millwood thinks he's settled down by retiring Young and Gomez, he implodes. LNP does it again by getting an RBI single followed up by a Span double. Millwood is shown the door and O'Day is brought back. O-Cab knocks in another before O'Day gets out of the inning.

Let's forget about this one. Nothing good happened at all, and certainly not in the 6th (when the Rangers scored 5 runs and the Twins put up a goose-egg).

Twins @ Kansas City. The Twins won 5-4 after tying it up -- in the 6th!!! It started out simply enough with Delmon grounding out to Hochever, the starting pitcher. Then Gomez singled and used his awesome speed to take 2nd and then 3rd on a throwing error. Casilla doubles, then Span triples, before Hochevar finally gets out of the inning.

Twins get another 3 runs, obviously in the 6th, because that's where they seem to do all their scoring.  Starter Kyle Davies runs into struggles his 3rd time through the lineup. The Twins rough him up before he's replaced by Ron Mahay, who eventually gets them out of the inning, and the Twins go on to win 8-7.

The Twins didn't do anything in the 6th here, but they did win ridiculously, 10-3. In fact, they exploded for 8 runs in the 7th. Maybe that's because it was starter Brian Bannister's 3rd time through the order? Perhaps?

Twins pull ahead to take the lead 2-1 against the Orioles in the 6th and end up winning by that score. You'll never believe it: it was start Chris Tillman's 3rd time through the order. I think I'm seeing another trend other than the number:
So, Tuesday the Orioles took their starter out after the 5th, but I think it's safe to say that any time Brian Bass takes the mound, people are going to start scoring in droves. It just happened to be the 6th inning.

I love these weird coincidences and superstitions in sports, but you know what's special about the 6th inning? That's usually when a starter begins to tire. If only 3 people get on base in the first 5 innings, the pitcher will be facing the top of the order for the 3rd time that night at the start of the 6th. And by then, the hitter has probably seen the pitcher's complete arsenal of pitches and probably has his timing down. Couple that with the higher pitch count and chances are you'll see runs, not only in the 6th, but probably the 5th and 7th. The only times you'll see huge numbers put up in early innings is probably when the starter utterly fails, and in later innings when a team has a horrible bullpen.

Don't we have a guy who struggles after his 1st and 2nd time through the order?

Just a thought. But I still like thinking about the whole 6th inning thing, it gives me hope if we're behind going later into the game. And, hey, if we can win Wednesday's game, guess how high our win streak would reach?
In other news ...

Armando Gabino got roughed up in his debut. But don't most people? Swarzak was a rarity in his first major league start. I don't think Gabino will be a frontline starter, but he could very well be effective in the majors if used properly (i.e. not in a desperation start). Check out Thrylos's blog for a more detailed look at Gabino, it's some great material.

And over at Plunking Gomez, Erin provides an awesome look into Joe Nathan,his usage and his effectiveness since we got him for that "other" catcher we used to have.


  1. Thanks for the plug :) And yeah, it is a little uncanny that the Twins keep putting up crooked numbers in the sixth. Poor Bassy, he should have refused to come in until the seventh!

  2. It definitely is sad, but it's also a little comical to watch Bassy out there. Nothing EVER seems to go right for him. Poor guy.