MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — With his team’s bullpen needing a rest and its hitters struggling in the clutch, Mike Pelfrey bailed out the Minnesota Twins.
Pelfrey pitched eight strong innings, his longest outing in three years, and Minnesota avoided a series sweep by beating the Milwaukee Brewers 2-0 on Sunday.
Eddie Rosario and Eduardo Escobar had RBIs for the Twins, who otherwise struggled with runners on base. Glen Perkins worked a scoreless ninth for his major league-leading 21st save in as many chances.
Pelfrey (5-2) allowed eight hits and struck out seven. He has yielded only three earned runs over his last four starts, spanning 28 innings. This was his longest start since April 21, 2012 — his last outing before Tommy John surgery.
“That was a big-time performance,” manager Paul Molitor said. “It’s been a rough week for our bullpen in terms of usage, so to get eight innings was really, really big.”
Pelfrey started the season in the bullpen, but was quickly given a chance to start when Ervin Santana was suspended.
“I’m just going out there trying to do the best I can because as a team we’re playing pretty good,” Pelfrey said.
Molitor said the right-hander is mixing his pitches well and throwing inside to right-handed hitters, which opens up the outer part of the plate.
Minnesota, which entered fourth in the majors with a .298 batting average with runners in scoring position, finished 2 for 12 in those situations after going 1 for 6 on Saturday.
Milwaukee put a runner on first with no more than one out in each of the first five innings. Each time the runner advanced no farther. The Brewers hit into two of their three double plays during that stretch.
The Brewers had one on with two outs for Ryan Braun in the eighth, but the Milwaukee slugger lined out to third on a leaping grab by Eduardo Nunez.
“We hit like three hard line drives straight to center field, hard line drive to second base, hard line drive to third base and it was his day today,” Milwaukee outfielder Carlos Gomez said. “When the guy has it like that, there’s nothing you can do.”
Mike Fiers (2-6) allowed two runs in 4 1-3 innings and struck out three. He threw 91 pitches on a muggy day, 54 for strikes. He has not given up more than two runs in any of his past six starts.
“Just felt like I had to battle out there, like I had to battle every pitch,” he said.
Rosario doubled in Torii Hunter in the second, and Escobar’s triple made it 2-0. Three straight groundouts — two to the pitcher — left Escobar stranded.
The Twins sent struggling SS Danny Santana to Triple-A Rochester after the game and recalled 1B-DH Kennys Vargas from the Red Wings.
Santana has two hits in his last 25 at-bats, dropping his average to .218 after he hit .319 as a rookie last year. Vargas hit .248 with three home runs and 10 RBIs in 29 games with the Twins earlier this season.
Molitor said Escobar will be Minnesota’s starting shortstop.
READY OR NOT
Taylor Jungmann is scheduled to make his major league debut Tuesday when he starts for Milwaukee in Pittsburgh. Manager Craig Counsell said the right-hander will join the team Monday and be activated before Tuesday’s game.
A first-round pick (12th overall) in the 2011 draft, Jungmann is 2-3 with a 6.37 ERA in 11 games — nine starts at Triple-A Colorado Springs. “He’s kind of gone on a little bit of a roll in May, the last three or four starts, so we’re going to give him a shot,” Counsell said. “I think he’ll do well.”
Twins: 3B Trevor Plouffe, in a 1-for-25 slump, was given the day off “to clear his head a little bit,” Molitor said. … Reliever J.R. Graham, who pitched four innings in a spot start Saturday, was not available.
Brewers: Milwaukee opens a three-game series Monday night in Pittsburgh. Jimmy Nelson (2-6, 4.41 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Brewers against A.J. Burnett (6-1, 2.20). Nelson has two losses and a no-decision in his last three starts, allowing 12 earned runs in 16 2-3 innings.
Twins: Minnesota opens a three-game home series against Kansas City on Monday night, with Phil Hughes (4-5, 4.96) scheduled to face Jason Vargas (4-2, 4.79). Hughes looks to rebound after allowing five runs and a career high-tying 11 hits over 4 1-3 innings Wednesday in Boston.
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