Twins' bullpen continues to gain steam
JUN 06, 2012 11:17p ET
The Twins' relievers demonstrated that once again on the recent road trip, capping it with four scoreless innings of relief in Wednesday's 4-2 win in the series finale against Kansas City. Jeff Manship, Jared Burton, Glen Perkins and Matt Capps relieved starter Nick Blackburn after five innings, allowing just two base runners — neither of which advanced past first base — in four scoreless innings of work.
Perhaps the star of the bullpen this trip has been the right-hander Burton. Wednesday marked his third appearance of the six-game road trip, and he retired all nine batters he faced. That included four batters Wednesday, including three strikeouts. Eight of the nine batters Burton retired this trip were strikeouts.
"The ball's coming out of his hand really well," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Burton. "… He's got great stuff. He's got a great arm and he's healthy, along with Perk. You can back those two up to get to (closer Matt Capps), and that's pretty good.
Burton came into Wednesday's game in the seventh inning and struck out Humberto Quintero and Yuniesky Betancourt in the inning. He also got Billy Butler swinging to lead off the eighth inning before the left-hander Perkins relieved him.
"I'm just getting ahead of guys, strike one, and then I've been able to go to my put-away pitches," Burton said. "… Right now everything's just clicking and I'm executing my pitches real well."
On the season, Burton now has a 3.57 ERA in 22 2/3 innings. He's struck out 26 batters and walked just three in 24 appearances. A year ago with Cincinnati, he pitched in just six games for the Reds due to an injury. But he's healthy again and has been rock solid for Minnesota.
"He's been throwing the ball great all year," Capps said of Burton. "What can you say? Great pickup by the Twins organization and scouts and (general manager) Terry Ryan in targeting him and getting him over here."
Tuesday's 1-0 loss was another example of the bullpen's solid play as of late. Starter Francisco Liriano lasted six innings and gave up just one run, and Brian Duensing, Anthony Swarzak and Perkins kept the Twins in the game by combining for two scoreless innings.
The only runs allowed by Minnesota's bullpen during the six-game road trip came in a Twins victory. Right-hander Jeff Gray entered Monday's game with a 10-5 Minnesota lead and gave up two runs in the ninth inning. Otherwise, the bullpen has been nearly flawless over the last six games.
"You don't want to get too high or too low. You want to just stay consistent," Burton said of the relievers. "As a bullpen guy, you know you've got about 65 or 70 times to contribute to help your team win. It's just all about staying even keel all the way through and not being too confident if you're going well or not being too down on yourself if you have a couple rough ones."
Capps is an example of not getting down after a rough outing. After blowing a save May 27 against Detroit, Capps has bounced back to save five games in his last five outings. He picked up four saves on the road trip and saved Wednesday's game with a 1-2-3 ninth inning, closing it out by striking out Brayan Pena.
Capps is now 14-for-15 in save opportunities this season. His lone blown save came when Detroit's Miguel Cabrera hit a go-ahead homer off Capps in the ninth inning at Target Field.
"You've got to find a way to forget about it," Capps said. "I came in here the other night and threw three pitches and got one out. What I did a couple nights ago did nothing for me tonight. So you've got to find a way to put the good and bad behind you and focus on the task at hand right now."
Minnesota has won three series in a row and has won seven of its last nine games. Still, the Twins are just 22-34 and in last place in the American League Central.
The task at hand now for the Twins is to continue to win series. But thanks to a solid bullpen and improved starting pitching, the Twins are finally starting to do just that.
Robby Incmikoski contributed to this report.
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