Twins aim to follow up clutch bullpen performances vs. Astros

MLB

With Hansel Robles and Taylor Rogers on the 10-day injured list, the Minnesota Twins will have to rely on a handful of other relievers to handle high-leverage situations.

The Twins have done just that, capitalizing on strong bullpen efforts to claim a pair of close victories to begin their four-game series against the host Houston Astros. Should the situation arise, the Twins will hope for a similar performance in Saturday’s clash against the Astros.

Right-handers Tyler Duffey and Jorge Alcala have pitched in both games of the series and combined to post four scoreless innings with eight strikeouts. Right-hander Juan Minaya recorded the final four outs Friday, striking out Aledmys Diaz with two runners on to preserve a tie in the 10th inning before working around a two-out error en route to a scoreless 11th.

“I’ve been waiting for this moment so I have to take advantage,” Minaya said after the Twins’ 5-4 win in 11 innings. “It’s good I get to pitch in games like this. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing.

“Hopefully, I get more chances. I’m going to be ready when the phone rings. I’m going to be ready no matter the situation.”

Given the bullpen attrition, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli has stressed preparedness. The results thus far have been to his liking.

“We came in here and pitched and made plays and went out there and beat them for a couple of nights,” Baldelli said. “I’m proud of the way we played. It’s fun playing baseball like that.”

Right-hander Michael Pineda (4-6, 3.89 ERA) is the scheduled starter for the Twins Saturday. He is 1-4 with a 5.68 ERA and .872 OPS allowed over his past seven starts.

Pineda picked up the loss at home against the Astros on June 13, allowing three runs on six hits and one walk with one strikeout over four innings in a 14-3 setback. Pineda is 3-5 with a 5.18 ERA with nine walks and 44 strikeouts in 57 1/3 innings and 10 career starts against Houston.

Rookie right-hander Luis Garcia (7-6, 3.49) will get the start for the Astros. He has scuffled in consecutive starts, allowing 11 runs (10 earned) on 14 hits and three walks over 9 1/3 innings against the Seattle Mariners and San Francisco Giants on the Astros’ recent eight-game road trip.

Garcia had allowed four earned runs only once in the previous 14 starts while posting a 7-3 record and 2.83 ERA. One of those losses came against the Twins on June 12, when Garcia allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits and one walk with four strikeouts over 4 1/3 innings in a 5-2 road defeat.

Astros manager Dusty Baker leaned on three of the four relievers the club added at the trade deadline Friday, with right-handers Kendall Graveman, Phil Maton and Rafael Montero combining to allow two unearned runs on two hits with three strikeouts over three innings.

Houston revamped its maligned bullpen with an eye on a division title and a deep postseason run. The game result wasn’t favorable Friday, but the relief pitching was solid.

“You feel more confident going to them early that you may not have to stretch your starting pitcher out,” Baker said. “They’ve done well. We haven’t won any games to show for it but they’ve done well.”

–Field Level Media

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