MINNEAPOLIS -- Eduardo Nunez has become a secret weapon off the bench.
After Nunez went 4-for-4 with a hit-by-pitch in his first start on Sunday against the Royals, Twins manager Paul Molitor was looking for a spark against the Angels on Friday night, and went with Nunez atop the lineup and at second base to give Brian Dozier a rare day off. The decision worked out perfectly, as Nunez went 3-for-3 with a hit-by-pitch, an RBI and two runs scored to help the Twins take a 5-4 victory.
"To help the team win is the best feeling ever," Nunez said. "If I had three hits and we lost, that means nothing. So I'm feeling pretty good."
Nunez has been impressive at the plate, hitting .778 (7-for-9), and has yet to make an out in either of his two starts. But it's come at a cost, as he was hit by a fastball on his forearm from Royals closer Wade Davis on Sunday, and was plunked on the elbow by a 95-mph fastball from Angels starter Garrett Richards in the sixth inning on Friday.
Nunez also collided with right fielder Miguel Sano on a scary play in the fourth on a shallow pop fly from Yunel Escobar, but Nunez remained in the game despite being hit in the head by Sano's elbow and taking a cleat off his calf.
"He's had a couple nice games when we've got him in there and he got a lot of TV time tonight with injuries," Molitor said with a smile. "He's keeping me in shape. But that collision, I was fearing the worst because it didn't look good live. Thankfully, no severe injuries. That's a big man to run into out there."
Despite the collision and the hit-by-pitch, Nunez helped spark two key rallies. He led off the sixth being plunked by Richards and scored on a game-tying double from Miguel Sano. And in the seventh, Nunez brought the Twins within one run with an RBI double before scoring the tying run on a two-out single from Joe Mauer.
"He's been great for us," third baseman Trevor Plouffe said. "And he's been a warrior. I think he leads the league in trainer visits. But he's been great and was a big spark for us today."