Belisle staking claim to closer role

Twins veteran gets victory in walk-off win over Padres

September 14th, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins manager Paul Molitor said he's not one for titles, and hasn't named veteran Matt Belisle as his closer, despite him picking up a team-high seven saves since All-Star was traded to the Nationals on July 31.

But all Belisle has done since then is provide a huge boost to the bullpen, and he did it again Wednesday night, coming up huge for the Twins, getting five key outs in their 3-1, walk-off win in 10 innings that was capped by 's first career game-winning homer.

Belisle came in with two runners on and one out in the ninth with the game tied, but got and to fly out before tossing a 1-2-3 10th to pick up the victory. Belisle, though, the unquestioned veteran leader of the bullpen, would rather talk about anyone else except himself after the game, pointing out Rosario's heroics and 's six scoreless innings while downplaying his impact on the game.

"It's just like any other situation," Belisle said. "I'm just trying to execute pitches. Nothing really changes. Just look at the signs and trying to simplify things."

His role in the win, however, wasn't lost on manager Paul Molitor, who called on him to come into an inning with runners on base for the first time since Aug. 17 and the second time since he became Minnesota's de facto closer.

"Matty got five big outs for us," Molitor said. "I thought about bringing him in there to start that inning, especially if we scored. They got a bloop hit we erased with a stolen base, but they got another hit and a walk on a close 3-2 pitch that could've gone either way. I just thought I'd bring Matty in there because of his experience and he got a couple fly balls and a 1-2-3 inning."

Belisle, 37, has been key to the Twins' postseason push, posting a 2.84 ERA with 16 strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings since Kintzler's departure, but it's been his leadership that has also been on display since the trade.

He's been pivotal in keeping the young club focused without worrying about external influences or the fact the front office chose to sell at the non-waiver Trade Deadline. It's helped the Twins to a surprising two-game lead for the second American League Wild Card spot with 17 games left to play.

"We've thought we've had something special since the All-Star break so our mindset doesn't really change," Belisle said. "Nobody is really concerned about the standings. We're just concerned about [the nine innings] in front of us, and I know it sounds cliché, but the guys have done such a good job of embracing that. That's what is special about this club. We're having fun and we expect good things, but we've had a mindset for this type of a game a long time ago."