Bullpen bounces back, picks up Pelfrey's slack

Relievers combine for five scoreless innings to help beat Royals

Bullpen bounces back, picks up Pelfrey's slack

KANSAS CITY -- A night after the bullpen couldn't protect a late one-run lead in a loss to the Royals, the Twins bounced back with the help of five shutout innings from a combination of six relievers in Saturday night's 5-3 win at Kauffman Stadium.

Right-hander Mike Pelfrey left after just four-plus innings, loading the bases with no outs in the fourth and allowing a two-run single to Lorenzo Cain. Lefty Brian Duensing allowed an inherited runner to score on a groundout, but the bullpen threw up zeros from there in a victory that moved Minnesota within 3 1/2 games of first-place Kansas City.

It marked the third time in five outings that Pelfrey has been unable to go more than four innings, and he has an 8.50 ERA over that span, but he came away impressed by the bullpen that was able to protect the lead.

"I thought it was huge," Pelfrey said. "Duensing came in and did a great job. All those guys did great. They picked me up. I obviously want to go deeper in the game and it's frustrating on my part, but they picked me up and it's a big win for us."

After Duensing got through the fifth, right-hander Ryan Pressly tossed a scoreless sixth, but left after facing one batter in the seventh with what is being described as an upper right lat strain.

Pressly exits with injury

But Aaron Thompson, who gave up the game-winning run in Friday's 3-2 loss in extra innings, was able to induce a double play from Mike Moustakas. Blaine Boyer got out of the inning from there and handed it over to Casey Fien, who tossed a scoreless eighth after he had given up the game-tying run in the eighth on Friday. Closer Glen Perkins threw a 1-2-3 ninth to improve to a perfect 27-for-27 in save opportunities on the year.

"I think it shows you the character of our team," Thompson said. "When you have a loss, it doesn't taste very good. No one is pointing fingers. Everyone looks at themselves and what they could've done better. And tonight you saw a lot of familiar faces from last night that got to contribute."

Twins manager Paul Molitor was also impressed by the resiliency of his relievers, as they were able to put Friday's tough loss behind them and get a much-needed victory on Saturday with a chance to win the series on Sunday.

"It's always good to get them back out," Molitor said. "Boyer had a good inning last night, and tonight walked a guy, but got out of it. And Thompson got a big double play. And Casey, I think it was really good to get back out there. I think he realized last night just didn't go his way more than he didn't pitch well. And Glen just continues dominate in his role."

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.