Did Twins closer issue reopen?

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 3, 2011 - 11:16 PM

Ron Gardenhire insists Matt Capps still has the job, but options include Joe Nathan and Glen Perkins.

Matt Capps is still the Twins' closer, manager Ron Gardenhire insisted Sunday afternoon, knowing the righthander wasn't happy with him.

Gardenhire had just pulled Capps with a two-run lead in the ninth inning, as the Brewers had two runners on base and Prince Fielder coming to the plate.

With Saturday's nightmare fresh on his mind, Gardenhire summoned lefthander Glen Perkins, who fanned Fielder and Casey McGehee, sealing the 9-7 victory at Target Field.

"Cappy's still our closer," Gardenhire said. "He's really fired up right now, I guarantee it. He's hot at me, and that's fine. I'll take it. I'll wear it. Whatever it takes, but we're trying to win baseball games."

Indeed, these are desperate times. After blowing a seven-run lead in Saturday's loss, the Twins needed this game to win the series and pull back to 10 games under .500, at 36-46.

The backdrop to all this, of course, is that former closer Joe Nathan appears to be regaining his form. Sunday marked the third time in three outings that he delivered a perfect eighth inning, earning another hold.

Capps entered Saturday's game with an 0.82 ERA in his previous 11 appearances, but that success was clearly lost on Twins fans when he turned a 7-4 ninth-inning lead into an 8-7 loss.

It was Capps' sixth blown save in 19 chances, and the sellout crowd booed when he entered Sunday's game. The tension mounted as singles by Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart put runners at first and second with one out.

When Gardenhire went to the mound, Capps reminded Gardenhire that he'd had good success against Fielder.

"Considering Fielder is 0-for-7 with three [strikeouts] against me, it was pretty hard," Capps said.

Capps thought he made some good pitches Saturday and Sunday but noted the bloop hits and grounders through the infield.

"I understand [Fielder's] a dangerous hitter, and it worked out, and it looked great, but it's frustrating for me," Capps said.

Capps said it was the first time in his career that he'd been pulled in the middle of a save situation, but he was still on the field giving high fives after the game.

Asked if he was indeed "hot" at Gardenhire, Capps said: "He hasn't talked to me, hasn't said a word to me, walked right by me. His job is to make the moves that are best for the team, and that's what he did. I've got no problem with that. It worked out. We won the ballgame. That's the ultimate goal, and that's what he did."

Pitching for the fifth time in six days, Perkins was terrific again, lowering his ERA to 1.80. After swinging through a slider to end the game, McGehee broke his bat over his knee in frustration.

"It was a fun experience," Perkins said of his first career save. "I think we've got two guys who are good closers, and they're going to be our guys, and sometimes you've got to pick them up, and I was glad I was able to do that today."

Perkins said he never gave much thought to being an eighth-inning guy, let alone a closer. He's just happy to be pitching well, but it's worth noting that Capps and Nathan are both potential free agents at season's end.

For now, the 2012 closer controversy can wait. This one just got interesting again.

Joe Christensen • jchristensen@startribune

  • TWINS 9, MILWAUKEE 7

    Up next: Three-game series vs. Tampa Bay at Target Field • Game 1: 1:10 p.m. today • TV: FSN (1500ESPN)

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