The Minnesota Twins put the final nail in the Chicago White Sox's coffin on Wednesday night thanks in large part to Brian Duensing. Duensing has saved this staff and his brilliant pitching down the stretch is a large part of the Twins' success. And if feels familiar. One of the things about being an older Fan of this game is that these eyes have seen a lot of baseball and when that's the case, patterns of today remind of days gone past. Duensing's heroics felt familiar and the Fan finally put a finger on it: Mel Stottlemyre.
Duensing is now 9-2 with an ERA of 2.07. Back in 1964, the Yankees were in a similar place with the present day Twins. Those Yankees had problems after the first three starters. Ralph Terry was struggling and Rollie Sheldon gave up 18 homers in just a little over 100 innings. In desperation, the 1964 Yankees turned to a young Mel Stottlemyre who went 9-3 down the stretch and finished that season with a 2.06 ERA. Yeah, the similarities are glaring.
Stottlemyer pitched 96 innings. Duensing has pitched 113 (he started the season in relief). Stottlemyre wasn't a strikeout pitcher and neither is Duensing. Both kept the ball in the park. Duensing has only given up seven homers and Stottlemyre only gave up three. Stottlemyre walked more than Duensing does, and that is probably Duensing's biggest strength. Duensing is 27 years old and Stottlemyre was 22 in 1964. And Stottlemyre only pitched one game in relief whereas Duensing started the season in relief and was put in the rotation late in the season.
But both pitchers gave their teams exactly what the teams needed and propelled them to the pennant. It's hard to figure the Yankees winning in 1964 without a young Stottlemyre and it's hard to imagine the Twins being this much in the driver's seat without Duensing. It's a nice comparison.
One other item of interest about Duensing. He was a teammate of Joba Chamberlain on the Nebraska team that battled for the College World Series. Both had similar numbers for that team. But Duensing has shown he's a starter and can thrive int he rotation. Chamberlain never did make it that way, though he is having a very good season in relief.