Closer Perkins redeems himself as Twins edge Seattle

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 17, 2014 - 12:51 PM

Glen Perkins stranded the tying run at third in the ninth inning and collected his 11th save as the Twins won for the fourth time in five games.

Glen Perkins analyzed his blown save on Thursday, realized his biggest mistake and made a critical adjustment one day later: Pitch worse.

Hey, it works for him.

Perkins hung a few sliders, spiked one past his catcher — and stranded the tying run on third base, bouncing back nicely to save the Twins’ 5-4 victory over Seattle at Target Field.

“That’s just the luck of the draw. Yesterday I didn’t have any luck. Today I threw a lot worse pitches than yesterday, and I get two outs out of it,” Perkins said after earning his 11th save of the season in 13 opportunities. “That’s baseball.”

Kyle Gibson pitched seven strong innings, allowing only one run to pick up his first victory in a month, and Brian Dozier smashed an eye-high pitch into the left-field seats, making him just the 11th player in Twins history to record 10 home runs in the season’s first 40 games. But none of it would have mattered had Perkins not relied upon a slider he admitted wasn’t at its best.

Michael Saunders led off the ninth inning with a ground-ball single, and Perkins moved the potential tying run to ­second base by bouncing a 56-foot slider past catcher Kurt Suzuki. But facing the heart of Seattle’s lineup, and trying to corral a slider that wasn’t going where he wanted, the Twins closer got Robinson Cano to ground out, Corey Hart to pop up and Justin Smoak to tap back to him, putting his uncharacteristic meltdown against Boston in the past.

“[When] a guy’s on third base, you can’t go to one pitch. I saw yesterday how they ambushed the fastball, so I wanted to mix in more sliders,” Perkins said after pitching out of trouble. “They weren’t good ones, but it kept them off [balance] enough to get them out.”

“The ninth inning is never easy, I don’t care who’s out there,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “That’s a high-profile job. The tension level goes up, but he got them out when he had to. We had the infield in, but he made a great pitch.”

Gibson, now 4-3 after his first victory since April 17, made a lot of them, a big relief after losing three consecutive games and being battered by Detroit last weekend. He allowed only one run in seven innings, and pitched out of a bases-loaded situation in the first inning. But the biggest out might have been his last.

Gibson was approaching 100 pitches and protecting a 5-1 lead with two runners on base and two outs in the seventh. Up to the plate walked Cano, the Mariners’ $240 million man, a hitter who had already lined a sharp single and missed a home run by a foot or two off the center-field fence.

Gibson’s biggest weapon? “The fence was thankfully a foot high enough to keep the ball in,” he joked.

Actually, it was his changeup, a pitch working so well Friday that Gardenhire chose to stick with his young starter in a situation he might not have in the past. Even Gibson thought he might be pulled after Saunders’ two-out single brought Cano up in an RBI situation.

But “I thought Gibby’s ball was still coming out of his hand really good. I was looking at that point for him to go through the eighth inning,” Gardenhire said, though he eventually changed his mind about another inning. “My thought wasn’t [about] Robbie Cano, it was getting him through the eighth.”

Cano grounded to second and the threat was over, for the moment. Seattle scored three off reliever Caleb Thielbar in the eighth, setting up Perkins’ high-wire act.

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