After giving up yet another home run Thursday, Kevin Jepsen was asked about his mental state. Just how, for instance, does he keep from banging his head on his steering wheel while driving home?
“Have someone else drive for me,” Jepsen said.
Jepsen then chuckled. There can be healing in laughter, but there’s nothing funny about what the onetime Twins closer has gone through on the mound this season.
His fastball was pummeled by Freddy Galvis in the eighth inning, putting the finishing touches on the Phillies’ 7-3 victory at Target Field. The Twins missed a chance to sweep the three-game series and finish the homestand 3-4.
Galvis’s three-run blast lifted Jepsen’s ERA to 6.28, which easily would be a career worst. He also has given up a career-high seven home runs, including one in each of his past two outings. This is the same man who took over as closer for the ineffective and injured Glen Perkins last season and posted a 1.61 ERA while notching 10 saves. No one blinked when Perkins was injured in April and the Twins again turned to Jepsen. But he has blown four save opportunities and lost his closer’s role to the combination of Brandon Kintzler and Fernando Abad.
“It’s been one of my most frustrating years,” said Jepsen, 31. “It’s just a constant [cycle] of feeling good, have a couple good outings then, all of a sudden, bam. I’m fighting to keep my head above water.”
Righthander Ricky Nolasco (3-5) gave up four earned runs over 6⅔ innings on 10 hits and four walks with one strikeout. But things really fell apart after he left the game with the Twins trailing 4-2.
Jepsen was mechanically out of sync and couldn’t command a lot of his pitches in a performance that was a microcosm of his season. He gave up a single to Cody Asche and walked Cesar Hernandez in the eighth inning before Galvis got a 3-2 fastball that was down the middle and hit it into the drink rail section in right for a 7-2 lead.
Galvis finished with a career-high five RBI to lead the Phillies. Hernandez tied a career high with four hits.
“He’s fighting,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said of Jepsen. “I’m sure he’s frustrated not getting the results. Issues today with command and he couldn’t get the fastball down and had trouble with the breaking ball. Ended up having to throw a pitch 3-2 over the plate that got hit. Just trying to find ways to work him in there and hopefully build on some good outings. They’ve just been hard to come by.”
Brian Dozier laced an RBI double down the left-field line in the first inning, scoring Eduardo Escobar from first base — a rare good start, as the Twins had a minus-19 first-inning run differential entering the game. Philadelphia scored twice in the second, on a home run by Ryan Howard and a safety squeeze by Galvis that scored Asche. An RBI single by Odubel Herrera in the fourth made it 3-1.
Escobar hit an RBI single in the fifth to close the gap to 3-2, but Galvis’ RBI triple in the six made it 4-2. Jepsen entered the game with the task of keeping the Twins within rally range, but struggled once again.
“It’s a battle. It’s a process,” Jepsen said, “but you have to keep working toward [a solution]. I’m going to keep grinding.”