MINNEAPOLIS — Kevin Jepsen’s performance with the Minnesota Twins last season gave the team confidence it had a quality option at the back end of the bullpen when closer Glen Perkins went on the disabled list in April.
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In save situations or not, Jepsen’s 2016 outings haven’t brought much relief to Minnesota.
Brad Miller’s sacrifice fly snapped a 5-all tie in the ninth inning off Jepsen, and Evan Longoria followed with an RBI single after hitting two home runs earlier as the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Twins 7-5.
Kevin Jepsen (2-5) allowed two runs on two hits and two walks in the ninth as Minnesota lost for the sixth time in seven games. The right-hander has allowed runs in seven of his past 12 appearances and owns a 6.26 ERA.
"I know where I need to get to," Jepsen said after the game. "Stuff-wise, it’s coming. The velocity’s coming. I feel great, as far as stuff’s going. Now it’s just putting it together. The beginning of the year, the fastballs were up. Now I’m able to get that fastball to stay true, down and away."
Steven Souza Jr. led off the ninth with a double off the wall in left center field and advanced to third after the ball deflected off the wall and bounced past Minnesota center fielder Byron Buxton for an error. Jepsen then walked Curt Casali before striking out Tim Beckham.
Pinch-hitter Nick Franklin walked to load the bases and Miller hit a line drive to left, causing Robbie Grossman to make a leaping catch while running back.
"He’s a 95-mile-an-hour fastball guy, but he needs that curveball and changeup," Twins manager Paul Molitor said of Jepsen. "They haven’t been there for him. He’s trying to find that release point. That’s probably the biggest thing, he has to rely on the fastball maybe more than you would think for him to be able to get some big outs late."
Longoria homered for the fourth consecutive game, becoming just the second player to homer in every game of a four-game series against the Twins and the first since Toronto’s Edwin Encarnacion in 2010. Logan Morrison also homered twice as Tampa Bay hit 11 home runs in the four-game series.
"They’ve got some hot hitters over there," Molitor said. "You make mistakes, you have to pay. We didn’t contain late in the game, we didn’t take advantage of all the opportunities we had early in the game, and translated into another loss."
Rays reliever Xavier Cedeno (3-1) got the win despite allowing a game-tying homer to Eduardo Nunez in the bottom of the eighth. Alex Colome stayed perfect with his 15th save in 15 chances.
Byung Ho Park and Robbie Grossman hit back-to-back homers for the Twins in the third inning.
BUXTON FINDING HIS WAY
Buxton had the second three-hit game of his short career, including an RBI triple.
The rookie outfielder was sent down to Triple-A at the end of April following a frustrating start to his season. He added more of a high leg stride in his hitting and is 10 of 23 (.435 average) since being recalled on May 31.
Twins: Closer Glen Perkins will throw another bullpen session on Tuesday as he tries to make his way back from a left shoulder strain. General manager Terry Ryan said Perkins would be evaluated after Tuesday’s session, but his recovery has been positive since returning to the mound recently. . Kyle Gibson (right shoulder strain) made a rehab start on Sunday with Triple-A Rochester and Ryan said he hoped Gibson would approach the 90-pitch mark.
Twins: The homestand continues following a day off with LHP Pat Dean (1-2, 4.15) facing the Miami Marlins on Tuesday. Miami counters with LHP Adam Conley (3-3, 3.72). Dean will be making his fourth career major league start after giving up four runs in a loss at Oakland in his previous outing.