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Zulgad: Double down: As Twins fans vent, Baldelli sticks by decision to turn to Waddell

MLB: Texas Rangers at Minnesota Twins
May 4, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Twins relief pitcher Brandon Waddell (58) getting pulled from the game in the tenth inning after giving up three runs in tenth inning against the Texas Rangers at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Texas Rangers already had scored three runs in the top of the 10th inning Tuesday night at Target Field when Rocco Baldelli emerged from the dugout to remove reliever Brandon Waddell. In a season in which much has gone wrong and Baldelli’s decision-making has been second-guessed numerous times, several of the 8,022 who remained in the ballpark expressed their displeasure by booing the Twins manager.

This time it was Badelli’s decision to turn to Waddell for a second consecutive day after lefthander Taylor Rogers was unable to finish a four-out save, giving up two runs in the ninth as Texas tied the score. Third baseman Josh Donaldson didn’t help Rogers when he was unable to pick up Charlie Culberson’s roller after Willie Calhoun opened the ninth with a homer. Donaldson was charged with an error. (“J.D.’s going to make that play 95, 97 times out of 100, it’s just a play he makes all the time, and tonight, obviously, we don’t make it,” Baldelli said.)

Baldelli had to be mindful of the fact his team entered Tuesday 0-5 in the extra innings this season as he considered whom to use in his beleaguered bullpen. Righthanders Hansel Robles and Tyler Duffey had pitched before Rogers.

The Rangers would start the inning with Nick Solak on second base — he had made the last out of the ninth — and the lefthanded-hitting Nate Lowe at the plate. Baldelli had righthanders Alex Colome, Cody Stashak and Jorge Alcala and lefthanders Waddell and Caleb Thielbar available. Thielbar had pitched on Sunday and Monday (40 pitches in those two appearances) and was unavailable.

Lefthanded hitters were 4-for-10 against Waddell in his career, while hitting .309 against Stashak and .362 against Alcala with five home runs. The best choice would have been Colome, who has surrendered a .223 average (170-for-764) with 14 home runs to lefthanded batters in his career.

The problem is that the veteran righthander has had a miserable season and Baldelli has stopped using him in key situations. If Colome was pitching well, he likely would have been used to close the game instead of Rogers.

Lowe, who entered Tuesday 12-for-52 against southpaws, hit a sharp liner off Waddell to left that Jake Cave caught to begin extras. It was an out but there was nothing that provided confidence Waddell had things under control and he quickly proved he didn’t. The next hitter, Rangers cleanup batter Adolis Garcia, belted a two-run homer to left.

That shouldn’t have come as a surprise considering Waddell had given up a two-run homer to the righthanded-hitting Garcia on Monday night. In that outing, Waddell threw 15 pitches and surrendered three runs, two hits, a walk and struck out one in one-third of an inning.

The third batter against Waddell was lefthanded-hitting Joey Gallo, who is having a much better season against southpaws than righthanders. He continued that trend by doubling to right. After Calhoun grounded to first, Culberson’s double to left scored Gallo to give the Rangers what would become a 6-3 victory.

Baldelli finally took out Waddell and brought in Alcala, who struck out Eli White to end the inning. It didn’t matter, the damage had been done. Baldelli’s decision to go to Waddell had caused more than a few Twins fan on Twitter to first-guess the move and knowing he would have to face Garcia and Gallo made it even more curious.

Baldelli did not second-guess himself after seeing his team drop to 11-17 on the season with a loss to the 14-17 Rangers.

“The lefthanded matchup is something that makes a lot of sense to me still as I sit here,” he said. “Obviously, not every pitcher that you put in a game is going to matchup with every hitter. It’s impossible, it’s never going to work like that. But you put guys out there and guys have to go out there and get some outs. That’s the name of the game in this league. You look around, there’s a lot of pitchers going out there, facing a hitter or two, that may not be the best matchup for them. That’s fine, guys can go out there and pitch. … in that particular spot (Waddell) made sense.”

There were many in Target Field, and following along at home, who did not agree.

“We’re going to need our guys to go out there and pitch and gets outs,” Baldelli said. “We have some guys that are more established but Wad’s here for a reason. He’s lefthanded, he’s got some pretty good stuff to face some lefthanders and, for the most part, he’s here because we think he can go out and pitch. We’re not going to shy away from using guys in specific situations.

“We’re going to line them up when they give us the best chance to get outs. We’re not just going to send someone out there because they’ve been around a little longer and they’re a little more experienced. We’re going to pitch the guys that we think have the best chance of getting us outs and we’re going to challenge our guys to do that. That’s exactly what he’s here for so we used him.”

Much to the chagrin of Twins fans.