Kintzler's new changeup grip pays off quickly

Twins' closer registers first career five-out save Thursday vs. White Sox

Kintzler's new changeup grip pays off quickly

CHICAGO -- As Twins closer Brandon Kintzler played catch with lefty Taylor Rogers before Wednesday's rainout, he tinkered with a new changeup grip that gave the pitch more of a split-finger feel.

It's not often a pitcher changes a pitch during the regular season, and it's even more rare to use it right away in a big situation. But Kintzler, who was called on for a five-out save against the White Sox on Thursday, used the changeup for a huge strikeout with two runners in scoring position and the Twins clinging to a one-run lead with one out in the eighth to help secure a 7-6 win at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Kintzler came on in the eighth after Matt Belisle issued back-to-back walks with one out, as Twins manager Paul Molitor wanted the sinkerballer to try to induce a double play. But a wild pitch changed that plan, moving the runners up to second and third. Kintzler said he had to go for the strikeout on a 3-2 pitch to Omar Narvaez and decided to catch him off guard with his new changeup.

"In that situation, if I walked a guy, I wasn't worried about it, because I was still a ground ball away," Kintzler said. "On the wild pitch, I slipped on the landing. But the changeup, I started working on it yesterday and basically made it up. So I thought it was a good situation to try it. I had thrown so many fastballs, I just had to sell it."

Kintzler strikes out Narvaez

Kintzler went to the pitch again after falling behind Leury Garcia, 1-0, evening the count by getting Garcia to look at the changeup. Two pitches later, Kintzler was out of the jam, getting Garcia looking on a 94.4-mph sinker.

"Now it was just time to make pitches," Kintzler said. "I didn't have to be too careful and could be in attack mode right there. Ball one, I still had good movement, and I went changeup after that, and he flinched for a strike and was really late on a sinker down and away, which tells me that after he flinched on a changeup, I could throw a front-door sinker and he had no chance."

Kintzler escapes jam in the 8th

Kintzler, who hadn't pitched since Friday, said the most difficult part about multi-innings saves -- this was the fifth in his career, but the first that required him to get five outs -- is sitting back in the dugout and going back out for the ninth. But Kintzler retired the side in order in the ninth despite facing the top of the White Sox lineup.

"I think it's different when you go in the dugout," Kintzler said. "The adrenaline comes down. I realized last year I have to move around a lot. I sat down for a second, but then realized I needed to move around more. They had the big boys coming up. I needed my legs."

It was Kintzler's eighth save of the year, and his 1 2/3 scoreless innings lowered his ERA to 2.40. Molitor now has confidence to use him for multi-inning saves going forward.

"We were just taking a chance, trying to get a ground ball, but he ended up getting a couple strikeouts that were huge after the wild pitch," Molitor said. "He had a clean ninth. So that's a big league save, for sure."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.