While the Minnesota Twins lost their game Tuesday night to the Detroit Tigers, they spent much of the day winning off the field, beefing up a flagging pitching staff with three trades that added depth to the bullpen and a potential playoff starter.
Minnesota will aim to maintain its American League Central lead on Wednesday in the rubber game of a three-game series against Detroit in Minneapolis, when it might get to use two of its new pitchers for the first time.
The Twins started their maneuvers on Tuesday by acquiring Baltimore closer Jorge Lopez, who brings 19 saves and a 1.68 ERA from the surprising Orioles to his new team. Lopez has fanned 54 hitters over 48 1/3 innings and also boasts a 60 percent ground-ball rate.
Later, Minnesota picked up Cincinnati starter Tyler Mahle, who on paper figures to benefit from pitching home games in a more forgiving home park than the Reds' Great American Ball Park. Then the Twins added Tigers setup man Michael Fulmer, who merely had to switch sides of the field for this move.
After making those moves, Minnesota showed why it needed reinforcements. The Twins' bullpen couldn't cover the 14 outs needed after Chris Archer exited with a 2-1 lead in the fifth inning. An inherited runner scored to tie the game, and later Griffin Jax coughed up a one-run lead in the seventh by allowing three runs in a 5-3 defeat.
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli is excited about the additions of Lopez and Fulmer.
"We have some power arms that we can throw out there," Baldelli said. "That's what you need sometimes to compete with the power bats. I think that's the kind of bullpen we have."
Before calling on the relief corps on Wednesday, Baldelli hopes to get a good start from right-hander Joe Ryan (7-4, 3.78 ERA). It would be hard for Ryan to be worse than he was night on Friday in San Diego, where he yielded five homers and 10 runs over 4 2/3 innings of a 10-1 loss to the Padres.
In three previous outings against Detroit, Ryan is 2-0 with a 3.63 ERA, fanning 21 over 17 1/3 innings. He beat the Tigers on July 23 in Detroit, whiffing seven over 5 2/3 innings and allowing just one run on four hits and one walk.
The Tigers will counter with left-hander Tyler Alexander (2-4, 4.10 ERA). He is coming off a loss on Thursday night in Toronto, where he was touched for three runs (two earned) in four innings. In eight career outings against the Twins, four of them starts, Alexander is 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA over 26 2/3 innings.
For the Tigers, the Tuesday night result was a positive note in a mostly negative season. It was thought by many that Detroit would take the next step from a growing team into a contender, but a series of offseason moves failed to pay off and the Tigers played the role of cautious seller, offloading veterans Fulmer and Robbie Grossman for prospects.
"There were several teams looking for relievers," Detroit general manager Al Avila said. "I think there were more relievers than buyers this time around."
In exchange for Fulmer, the Tigers picked up Double-A pitcher Sawyer Gipson-Long, who was 3-4 with a 7.17 ERA in eight games (seven starts) for Wichita after pitching to a 1.99 ERA over 10 starts at high Class-A Cedar Rapids.
--Field Level Media