Three extras from the Twins’ seventh win in their last eight games, and their third straight home victory:
Kevin Jepsen has taken the last four save opportunities for the Twins and converted them all. Glen Perkins, despite a rough month of August, is still tied for the AL lead in saves with 31, and has blown only two chances, a 94 percent conversion rate. So if the Twins have a lead in the ninth inning on Saturday, who does Paul Molitor call upon?
“Glen’s our closer,” the Twins’ manager said. “Circumstances were a little different today, but I’d like to see him get back out there.”
That may be especially true if the opportunity occurs on Saturday, because Jepsen has pitched six times in the last seven games. All of them have been scoreless — in fact, Jepsen has a streak of 14 consecutive scoreless appearances — but it’s a heavy workload with a month to go.
“You can’t expect a guy to pitch at that pace for five weeks or so, and hopefully longer,” Molitor said. “It’s been by necessity. We’ve been squeezed a bit. But you have to be a little bit careful.”
For his part, Jepsen doesn’t mind all the work, even though he now leads the American League in games pitched, and is only 10 innings short of his career high.
“At this point in the season, it’s a tribute to everything you do in the off season, spring training, to be able to get out there as many times as you can,” the 31-year-old righthander said. “This might be quite a few more than I’ve done in [such a short] span, but when you get this point, you listen to your body, not statistics. My body feels fine.”
Perkins sounded confident that his own body is finally healed, after six weeks of at least some minor pain in his neck and back. Sure, how he feels on Saturday will be the most telling factor, but Perkins said just being able to stand and talk was a sign that it’s behind him.
“When I pitched on Sunday, by the time I got in the dugout I couldn’t breathe,” because of back pain, Perkins said. “I’m just fine right now, so I don’t expect any problems tomorrow.”
That’s good, though pitching in the seventh inning, as he did Friday for the first time in more than three seasons, had its benefits, too, Perkins said. “I got to watch them set up the dance party” in the clubhouse, he said of the Twins’ post-victory tradition. “I hadn’t seen that before.”
While the Twins’ bullpen was the story on Friday, Eduardo Nunez had a nice night, too. He had not hit a home run since June 22, had not collected two RBIs in one game since that night, and he accomplished both in beating the Astros. Nunez wasn’t supposed to play, but he was a late substitution when Miguel Sano’s right hamstring was bothering him. And as Sano’s fill-in, he naturally had to provide the power — something that surprised even himself.
Nunez whacked a 1-and-1 changeup from Scott Kazmir in the third inning, and was mad at himself for missing it as he dropped his bat. But when he looked up, the ball had carried into the left-field seats, his third home run of the season as his first ever as a Twins’ third baseman.
An inning later, he came up with the bases loaded and grounded a ball to the right side, against the Astros’ heavy left-side shift. Second baseman Jose Altuve reached it, but had no play but first base, allowing the Twins’ third run to score.
“He did a good job of hitting it to the right side,” Molitor said.