Twins’ bullpen may be limited as Royals seek first win of series

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Manager Paul Molitor is not sure how his bullpen will line up or who will be available Saturday when the Minnesota Twins play the Kansas City Royals.

Rookie Trevor Hildenberger pitched two scoreless innings Friday and got out of a tense situation in the seventh inning when he inherited two runners with nobody out and got Whit Merrifield to ground into a double play.

“It’s a hot hand,” Molitor said. “He’s had some stretches here where he’s pitched a lot, even though he’s done a really nice job of being economical with his pitch count, six outs on 18 pitches tonight.”

Matt Belisle threw 11 pitches in a spotless ninth for his sixth save.

“With both Trevor and Matty pitching three days in a row, we’re going to obviously see some different faces tomorrow,” Molitor said. “It’s just how it goes, but winning the first two here is a good start to the series.”

He said he has to “be careful” in not overusing some of his reliable bullpen arms.

RWC News Twins' bullpen may be limited as Royals seek first win of series  RWC News Twins' bullpen may be limited as Royals seek first win of series

The Twins will start right-hander Jose Berrios in the third game of this four-game series at Kauffman Stadium. Berrios, who is 12-7 with a 4.01 ERA in 21 starts, lost his previous start, giving up five runs and seven hits in five innings at Tampa Bay. He has posted 11 quality starts after beginning the year with Triple-A Rochester before being called up May 12.

Berrios has not pitched well against the Royals. He is 0-1 with an 8.20 ERA in four career starts, allowing 17 earned runs in 18 2/3 innings. He permitted five runs and nine hits in five innings in his last start, a no-decision against the Royals on July 1 at Kauffman Stadium.

Alcides Escobar is 4-for-9 with a home run and five RBIs against Berrios. Whit Merrifield is 3-for-7. Salvador Perez has seen him the most, going 3-for-10.

The Royals will counter with right-hander Jake Junis, who is tied for the American League lead for rookies with seven victories. Junis has won his past five decisions and is 7-2 overall with a 4.48 ERA. It is the longest winning streak by a Kansas City rookie pitcher since Luke Hochevar won five in a row in 2008.

He made his first big-league start against the Twins on May 21 at Target Field and got a no-decision, allowing two runs in 4 2/3 innings.

Junis is 2-0 with a 3.62 ERA in five starts and two relief appearances at Kauffman Stadium. He has allowed 13 earned runs in 32 1/3 innings while striking out 30 and walking nine.

“He’s made a lot of progress, I guess,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He’s the same pitcher he was when he got here. He’s taken advantage of the opportunity. I don’t really see a lot of progress in terms of quality of pitching or progress in his experience.

“He was always a level-headed guy, a calm guy. He’s a guy with a good slider, spotted his fastball well, and he’s just gotten an opportunity and taken advantage of it.”

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Reppig Ethrofeno
RWC Sports Reporter

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