Righty delivers 7 strong innings to rescue taxed bullpen
By Do-Hyoung Park
MINNEAPOLIS -- Given how much the Twins have had to use their bullpen in the last three games, Minnesota badly needed a starter to give its relief corps a much-needed break.
In Saturday night's 5-3 win over the Royals, right-hander Tyler Duffey rose to the occasion, yielding only two runs in seven strong innings to earn his third straight win. He was the first Twins starter to last seven innings since July 29.
"It's just one of those things where the more that the short outings [from the starters] get compounded, the more that it taxes your team collectively," said Twins manager Paul Molitor. "You need a little relief. We have a couple of off-days coming up in the next couple of days, which is helpful. Long starts are right up there with off-days."
Because the Twins spotted Duffey an early lead with a first-inning RBI single from Robbie Grossman, the big right-hander was able to be more aggressive in the zone with Kansas City's lineup. He wasn't trying to strike out Kansas City's contact-oriented hitters, but rather locate his fastball and mix in his curveballs effectively to induce weak contact all evening.
"It makes it really easy to just go out there and try to get strike one," Duffey said. "For me, that's so big. My last two starts, I just tried to get ahead and that opens the door for everything else. I don't know how many guys I got behind, but I feel like I was ahead for most of the night. When that happens, things tend to work out for you."
Duffey's lone hiccup early in the game was a third-inning solo homer by Cheslor Cuthbert. He ran into trouble in the fifth and seventh innings but was effective in damage control and got some help from his defense.
In the fifth, he allowed the first two Kansas City hitters to reach but induced a bunt popup and escaped on a double play started on a bit of nice glove work from Eduardo Escobar. He allowed a two-out RBI double to Alcides Escobar in the seventh before Jorge Polanco charged a weak grounder and made a strong throw to kill the threat.
"I got some flyouts early and we were just trying to work inside on a lot of guys," Duffey said. "I settled in and had a lot of great defense and I can't ask for that much else."
After posting a 7.77 ERA in five July starts, Duffey has been regaining his confidence while working on specific mechanical tweaks to improve his consistency, like maintaining a steady release point and staying on top of his breaking balls.
"It's one of those things where I know I have to keep working to get better," Duffey said. "That's all I've done every time I have a bullpen [session] now. I've made a point to get out there and work on something and get better, because I had a pretty rough stretch there and I was tired of that."
Do-Hyoung Park is a reporter for MLB.com based in Minneapolis. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.