Pitching this late in a season is new territory for Tyler Duffey, and just how much more ground Minnesota allows him hasn’t been officially stated. The rookie’s recent performances, however, are making it that much harder to shut him down.
Duffey will try to continue making that silent argument to remain on the mound for the rest of the season Saturday night in Detroit with the Twins trying to avoid another disappointment against the Tigers.
In Friday’s 6-4 loss to the Tigers (72-81), the Twins (78-75) blew a four-run lead but remained 1 1/2 games back of Houston for the second wild card. They’ve dropped seven of nine, three straight to the last-place Tigers and six of seven in Detroit this season.
Joe Mauer’s span of 43 games reaching base came to an end as Minnesota managed two hits, dipping its average in Detroit to .180 with 1.9 runs per game this year.
"This one hurts," manager Paul Molitor said. "We had it set up fairly well with nine outs to go, and we didn’t finish it off."
Duffey (4-1, 3.15 ERA) pitched 138 innings in the minors prior to his 45 2-3 with the big league club, surpassing his previous professional high from last year by 34 innings.
"You don’t want to put the kid’s arm in jeopardy," Molitor told MLB’s official website. "It’s proving to be pretty valuable for him right now."
Well aware of that, the Twins have worked in the occasional extra day of rest, though there’s still a chance this will be his final start.
Since a rough debut Aug. 5, the right-hander is 4-0 with a 2.06 ERA in seven starts. His best came Sunday in an 8-1 home win over the Los Angeles Angels. He allowed three hits with seven strikeouts in seven scoreless innings to win his second straight.
Prior to that, he held the Tigers to a run and seven hits with seven strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings of a 7-1 home win Sept. 14, adding some appeal to getting him back on the mound against the division foe.
Perhaps most importantly, Duffey feels fine.
"I’ve had a little more rest," he said after beating the Angels. "My fastball felt better than it has in the past few starts. I think it had a little more on it. That worked well for me."
For Alfredo Simon, though, the season can’t end soon enough. Simon (13-10, 5.21) allowed eight runs and 13 hits in 4 1-3 innings of Sunday’s 10-3 home loss to Kansas City.
The right-hander is 2-3 with an 8.02 ERA in his last six starts, but the struggles haven’t been that contained. It’s just part of a 6-7 span with a 7.35 ERA after going 7-3 with a 2.58 mark in his first 12 outings with his new club.
Simon’s struggles against the Twins haven’t been as pronounced with a 1-1 record and 4.96 ERA in three starts this season, though that comes with a .343 opponent batting average. Kurt Suzuki is 6 for 13 with two home runs against him.
The Tigers have won three straight, and the pitching staff has a 2.35 ERA and .152 opponent batting average over the last five.
"You still have enough pride that you go out there, regardless of where you’re at in the last week of the season, and you go out to win," manager Brad Ausmus said.
Miguel Cabrera was 0 for 3 and continues to make the AL batting title more interesting by sliding back. The two-time MVP is batting .183 in his last 17 games, and his .334 average leads Boston’s Xander Bogaerts by nine points.