Relievers string together 14 2/3 shutout innings as club ends 0-9 start
By Chad Thornburg
The Twins rebounded from their 0-9 start by sweeping the Angels at Target Field this weekend. The club's first winning streak of 2016 featured three straight come-from-behind victories as Minnesota relied heavily on its bullpen to keep games within reach long enough to mount comebacks.
And Minnesota relievers did just that Sunday when the Twins rallied for an extra-innings win against Los Angeles. The Twins bullpen exited the week with a scoreless streak of 14 2/3 consecutive frames; they haven't surrendered a run since the ninth inning of last Monday's home opener. This stellar string of performances cemented Minnesota's status as the "MLB Bullpen of the Week presented by The Hartford."
As part of the MLB Prevailing Moments program, each Monday throughout the 2016 season, MLB.com is honoring the Bullpen of the Week. An industrywide panel of MLB experts, including legendary stats guru Bill James, constructed a metric based on James' widely renowned game-score formula, to provide a weekly measurement of team bullpen performance.
Here's how the Bullpen Rating System is compiled for each week. For reference, a weekly score of 100 is considered outstanding:
• Add 1.5 points for each out recorded
• Add 1.5 points for each strikeout
• Add 5 points for a save
• Subtract 2 points for each hit allowed
• Subtract 4 points for each earned run allowed
• Subtract 2 points for each unearned run allowed
• Subtract 1 point for each walk
• Subtract 5 points for a blown save
Twins relievers registered a score of 90 this week, totaling 54 outs, including 18 strikeouts, and allowing just one earned run on eight hits and eight walks. The one run and eight hits were the fewest of any relief unit in the Majors for the week.
Closer Kevin Jepsen earned his first two saves of 2016, bouncing back from a rough start to the year with a pair of scoreless frames vs. the Angels. Another key contributor was right-hander Ryan Pressly, who preserved his spotless ERA with five scoreless innings, allowing just four hits and one walk while striking out two.
It isn't just about compiling the most impressive statistics, however. The best bullpens are able to withstand adversity and succeed in spite of unexpected circumstances. Here's a look at the Twins' biggest obstacle:
The unexpected: Already operating one man down with Fernando Abad on the bereavement list this weekend after the death of his grandmother, the Twins' relievers were abruptly tasked with three additional frames Sunday as Minnesota forced extra innings in the finale against the Angels.
How they prevailed: Casey Fien, Ryan O'Rourke, Jepsen, Trevor May and Michael Tonkin combined to hold the Angels hitless for five innings after starter Kyle Gibson exited the game. Tonkin earned his first career win, striking out four of the six batters he faced in the 11th and 12th as the Twins completed the series sweep with a walk-off, 3-2 victory.
"It was definitely a good ballgame with good pitching on both sides," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "A lot of things happened in such a long game like that. We just had to grind. We had opportunities to put up some numbers, but we were able to tie it late. And then it was a matter of hanging on and throwing zeros before we pushed one across."
Minnesota's BRS score was 13.5 points higher than the next closest team, the Astros at 76.5. Houston relievers gave up five runs over 18 innings but edged the Twins in strikeouts (24) and walked fewer batters (five). Closer Luke Gregerson converted both his save opportunities, allowing just one baserunner in two innings.
The Braves (75), Diamondbacks (74) and Royals (70) each followed in the BRS standings, all still well behind the Twins.