Big start from Pelf helps Twins on many fronts

Righty's eight scoreless innings rests bullpen, masks RISP struggles

Big start from Pelf helps Twins on many fronts

MINNEAPOLIS -- Mike Pelfrey saved the Twins on several fronts on Sunday.

With his team needing him to pitch deep into the game after a bullpen day on Saturday, Pelfrey delivered with eight scoreless innings to help Minnesota avoid a three-game sweep at the hands of the Brewers with a 2-0 win at Target Field. It helped mask the club's recent struggles with runners in scoring position, as they went just 2-for-12 in those situations, but it was enough with the way Pelfrey pitched.

"It was a big-time performance," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "It's been a tough week for our bullpen in terms of usage, so to get eight innings was really big. And all zeros. And we probably could've scored more to take the pressure off there."

Pelfrey gave up a hit in all eight innings, but the Brewers had just one player in scoring position all afternoon, as he struck out seven and used three double plays to his advantage. He's now posted a 0.96 ERA in 28 innings over his last four starts to lower his season ERA to 2.28 in 11 outings.

"I thought I had good stuff," Pelfrey said. "My split was probably the best it's been. It just seems like whenever they hit the ball hard, it was at somebody. We turned a few nice double plays."

Molitor stuck with Pelfrey in the eighth despite being at 94 pitches, and even kept him in after a mound visit when he gave up a two-out single to Jonathan Lucroy. Molitor said he wanted to keep Pelfrey in the game, but wanted to check on his body language. Pelfrey wanted to stay in and was able to get Ryan Braun to line out to third on a nice leaping catch by Eduardo Nunez.

Nunez's leaping grab

"With Braun up there as the tying run, I just told him I wanted him to get this guy out," Molitor said. "He just said, 'Absolutely. Let's go for it.' You kind of look for a reaction, but it was all positive."

Pelfrey was backed by two runs in the second on an RBI double from Eddie Rosario after a leadoff walk from Torii Hunter and an RBI triple from Eduardo Escobar. But the Twins couldn't cash in Escobar, and also couldn't come through with the bases loaded and one out in the fifth. Molitor, though, said he's not worried about his club's recent struggles with men on.

Escobar's RBI triple

"I try to move on when it doesn't happen," Molitor said. "We missed a chance after the two-spot in the second and had a couple other chances. But it was a tough series for us trying to get that 90 feet to bring in a run. But you turn the page and start thinking about the other side of the ball."

The win helped the Twins avoid the sweep and remain a game ahead of the Royals in the American League Central with Kansas City coming in for a three-game series on Monday.

"Hopefully this gets us back on track," Pelfrey said. "We obviously have a very important series coming up, maybe as important as it gets for June. So it'll be a good test for us and we'll see what happens."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.