The Minnesota Twins came to bat in the top of the 11th inning in what was turning out to be one of their more thrilling and crazy games of the season against the Baltimore Orioles.
While the Twins offense was trying to string together a few hits to take the lead, American League saves leader Glen Perkins began to get loose in the visitors’ bullpen. While most of the time it’s perfectly normal to see a team turn to their closer in a tie game during extra innings, it had an odd feeling this time around.
Perkins had received a cortisone injection on Wednesday to help him deal with neck pain and the team had since announced he wouldn’t be available until Tuesday night. Now he found himself getting ready to pitch in a big situation of what could be an important game in the playoff hunt for each team, a full two days before he was supposed to be ready.
He entered in the bottom of the 11th and tossed a scoreless frame, striking out All-Star center fielder Adam Jones with two on and two outs to end the inning. Minnesota rallied in the next inning, taking advantage of two Orioles errors and taking the lead. Tommy Milone, who was the Twins starting pitcher in Friday night’s win against Baltimore, came on and got the first save of his career.
The gutsy outing that Perkins turned out along with a starting pitcher earning the save were just the icing on the cake for what was an incredible weekend for the Twins’ struggling bullpen. After a miserable series against the New York Yankees, where the Minnesota relievers blew two leads, they dominated the Orioles over the course of the four-game sweep. The Twins bullpen spun 15.2 innings in the series, allowing no runs, five hits and three walks while striking out 16. Casey Fein was arguably the most impressive member of the bunch, retiring all nine batters he faced over his two appearances and even out of a bases loaded jam that was created by Kyle Gibson.
Minnesota needed this sweep badly just to stay in the wild card hunt and now they find themselves sitting just a game and a half out of a playoff spot. The Twins needed every out the bullpen got them this weekend, having to come from behind in the final three games of the series.
The suddenly-stellar bullpen and the Twins will kick start a three-game set against the Tampa Bay Rays tomorrow night and both teams will be looking to make up ground in the league’s wild chard chase. Tomorrow is the day that Glen Perkins was scheduled to be available again, but he has surely already shown that he is ready to go.