Bullpen bails out Twins in victory over Astros
After Anthony Swarzak helped lead another dominant effort for the Minnesota Twins' bullpen, he offered a few words of encouragement to his struggling young teammate Kyle Gibson.
Ryan Doumit hit the go-ahead single in the seventh inning, Minnesota's bullpen pitched six scoreless innings and the Twins beat the Houston Astros 6-4 on Saturday night.
Swarzak made sure to connect with Gibson -- also a young up-and-comer -- about keeping his head up after a string of bad outings: he's allowed nine runs in his past six innings.
"He's got unbelievable stuff I told him. He was born to be here in this league, we all see that," said Swarzak, who has allowed just one earned run in his past 16 innings.
"Now it's just putting it all together. When I got called up in `09, I was kind of doing the same thing he's doing now. You want to do good so bad, it kind of works against you sometimes."
After Gibson allowed four runs and nine hits in three innings, Swarzak struck out five in the next three innings and the American League's second-best bullpen came through for Minnesota.
Brian Duensing (4-1) followed with a scoreless seventh and Casey Fien a scoreless eighth to set up All-Star Glen Perkins for his 26th save.
"Swarzy was the star of the game for us," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "That was huge to pick us up."
Minnesota relievers allowed only one hit and struck out 10 over the game's last six innings.
Brett Wallace homered for Houston and Erik Bedard allowed three runs in six innings before leaving with a 4-3 lead.
Houston's bullpen entered the game with a 5.11 ERA -- worst in the majors -- and couldn't hang on to get Bedard his first win since June 26.
With Lucas Harrell (5-12) on the mound, Brian Dozier doubled home Clete Thomas to tie the game at 4.
After Harrell walked Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, Doumit dumped a single that landed just in front of center fielder Brandon Barnes to give Minnesota the lead.
Harrell walked Oswaldo Arcia later in the inning with the bases loaded to make it 6-4.
"It's definitely frustrating. If I don't pitch better I'm going to be gone," Harrell said. "Being realistic, that's the way it is. Hopefully they'll even give me another chance to go back out. Hopefully finish the rest of the year and have a couple good outings and end on a high note."
Dozier and Arcia led off the first and second innings with triples off Bedard and eventually scored.
The Twins took a 3-1 lead in the second on a blooper-reel type of play that left Jose Altuve and Wallace staring at each other while Bedard pounded his glove in frustration.
With runners on first and third and one out, Dozier struck out and Doug Bernier got caught in a rundown trying to steal second. With an eye on Thomas creeping off third, Altuve chased Bernier back to first and bumped into Wallace as Thomas scampered home.
Thomas was credited with a steal of home, Minnesota's first since Torii Hunter swiped home versus Detroit on May 4, 2002.
"We were moving around pretty good out there," Gardenhire said. "All he's gotta do is get in a rundown in that situation. They got a little confused, and there ya have it."
Bedard settled down after the mishap and appeared on his way to snapping a five-game losing skid.
Houston grabbed a 4-3 lead after Wallace's solo homer which was part of five straight two-out hits in the third.
But Harrell -- typically a starter -- allowed a leadoff double to Thomas in the seventh and struggled from there.
Harrell has been used out of the bullpen recently after several trades shook up Houston's rotation. Friday night's game lasted 13 innings and required manager Bo Porter to get a little creative with his pitchers.
"This being my first year as a manager and being in baseball as long as I've been in baseball, this is arguably the toughest stretch I've witnessed -- whether its player, coach, manager -- of bullpen woes," Porter said.
Robbie Grossman and Barnes each had two hits for Houston.
Dozier extended his hitting streak to 10 games.
The Astros will recall Brad Peacock from Triple-A Oklahoma City to start Sunday's series finale. Peacock is 6-2 with a 2.73 ERA in the minors and 1/3 with an 8.07 ERA in nine appearances with Houston this season. Outfielder Jimmy Paredes will be sent down. ... Andrew Albers will make his major-league debut for the Twins on Tuesday against Kansas City. The Canadian lefty arrived in Minnesota a couple of hours before Saturday's first pitch, bleary-eyed but excited for his opportunity. "It's been a whirlwind last day-and-a-half. Just trying to take it all in right now. Not sure if it's really sunk in," said Albers, 11-5 with a 2.86 ERA at Triple-A Rochester. "I'm really thrilled to be here." ... Altuve returned after missing the past two games with a sore quad. ... Mike Pelfrey (4-9, 5.31) takes the mound for Minnesota on Sunday and will try to break a three-game losing streak.
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