The Minnesota Twins have had the worst bullpen ERA in the American League since the All-Star break, a big reason why the club has slowly been slipping out of the playoff picture. To make things worse, AL saves leader Glen Perkins had to receive a cortisone injection for neck pain earlier this week and wasn’t available tonight.
Starting pitcher Tommy Milone only lasted 5.1 innings tonight and manager Paul Molitor was forced to ask his struggling and banged up bullpen to get 11 outs tonight against the homer happy Baltimore Orioles and the unit responded, retiring every hitter who stepped into the batters box.
It was refreshing to see the lackluster Twins bullpen take over a game and lead the team to their second straight win after getting swept by the New York Yankees earlier this week with a lot of the blame being shouldered by the relief staff faltering during the late innings. Casey Fien was tonight’s winning pitcher, tossing 1.2 perfect innings after coming in for Milone. Trevor May followed up the act by retiring all three batters he faced in the eighth but the most impressive relief outing tonight belonged to temporary closer Kevin Jepsen.
Jepsen came out firing against the heart of the Orioles order – Adam Jones, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters. The 31-year-old veteran struck out the side, attacking the zone and tossing 12 strikes on 16 pitches. It was his sixth save of the year and first since coming over from the Tampa Bay Rays at the deadline.
After allowing two earned runs in his first outing in a Twins uniform, Jepsen started to dominate and hasn’t allowed a run over his last nine appearances. Over these nine outings, the righty has allowed just six runners to reach base while posting eight strikeouts. He has a 1.13 ERA over his last 16 innings, dating back to July 7th when he was still pitching for Tampa Bay.
Minnesota sent two lottery ticket pitching prospects to the Rays in exchange for the veteran, who is still under team control for the 2016 season. The Jepsen trade continues to look like a win for general manager Terry Ryan after tonight’s brilliant performance against the best hitters Baltimore had to offer.
Perkins is expected to avoid a trip to the disabled list with his recent neck pain but still isn’t expected to be available until at least Tuesday, when the Twins are in Tampa Bay for a series against Jepsen’s old teammates. If there was any doubt as to who should fill in as Minnesota’s closer during the three time All-Star’s absence, it was erased tonight.