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Updated: June 23rd, 2010 11:03pm
Sloppy defense costs Twins in 5-3 defeat

Sloppy defense costs Twins in 5-3 defeat

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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Sure, the Twins scored only three runs despite having 14 baserunners in a 5-3 loss to the Brewers on Wednesday night.

But in retrospect, after seeing Joe Mauer smack an RBI double in the ninth, the Twins could have used the two runs they gave away defensively in the seventh and eighth innings.

It seemed relatively harmless at the time, but in bottom of the seventh, a low flip by Orlando Hudson to Nick Punto at second on a potential double-play ball led to Punto firing errantly to Justin Morneau. Craig Counsell was retired on the play for the first out, but Weeks moved up to second on the throwing error.

Three hitters later -- after Corey Hart was intentionally walked and Prince Fielder was drilled on the elbow to load the bases with one out -- Ryan Braun bounced to Michael Cuddyer at third, who fired to Hudson, who doubled clutched, allowing Braun to beat the throw, giving the Brewers a 4-2 lead.

Then, with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, Rickie Weeks hit a hard bouncer toward third that skipped off the glove of a side-stepping Cuddyer, allowing another run to score. The play was ruled a hit for Weeks, but it was also a prime example of why Cuddyer should not be used at third base when the Twins finish their interleague road trip.

Earlier in the game, Delmon Young bobbled a ball in left field that allowed Hart to reach third base after an RBI double, although he would eventually be stranded.

The Twins, who rank sixth in Ultimate Zone Rating and who have also committed the fewest errors (24) of any team in baseball, have been one of the best defensive teams in the majors this season, despite rotating infielders seemingly every night.

Sure didn't seem like it on Wednesday, however.

Bullpen burnout? Nah.

A combination of two horrible starts over the weekend, an extra-inning thriller on Saturday, and National League double-switch strategies has caused manager Ron Gardenhire to lean heavily on his bullpen during this road trip.

Not including Carl Pavano's complete game on Sunday, Gardenhire has summoned a relief pitcher 18 times in four games.

In fairness, not all of these appearances have been high-stress situations. Alex Burnett threw only two pitches in his outing on Wednesday. Ron Mahay threw only four pitches on Tuesday and four more on Wednesday.

As a whole, the Twins' bullpen entered Wednesday night with the second-best ERA in baseball (2.95), and the 195 innings eaten by those relievers were the 10th-fewest.

So, yes, Gardenhire has been a bit bullpen-happy on this road trip through the National League, but the Twins' relievers have hardly been overused through the first three months of the season.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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