MINNEAPOLIS — Twins closer Glen Perkins rarely shows emotion on the mound, not even during some of the biggest moments of a game.
So when Perkins pumped his fist after striking out Chicago’s Adam Dunn to seal Minnesota’s 4-3 win Saturday, it was clear that the save was significant for Perkins.
"I don’t usually do too much out there after a game," Perkins said. "But with everything that’s been going on and then not doing well yesterday, I was excited today to get that one done and win this series and give us a chance to sweep them tomorrow."
Saturday’s save was a bit of redemption for Perkins, who one day earlier entered the ninth inning with an identical 4-2 lead but blew his third save of the year by allowing a pair of White Sox runs. While Minnesota won that game in the bottom of the ninth, Perkins was frustrated that he let the game get to that point.
He wasn’t about to let it happen again — although he didn’t make things easy on himself. Perkins allowed a leadoff triple to Chicago’s Adam Eaton, who lined a ball to center field that got under the glove of Minnesota’s Sam Fuld. The ball rolled to the wall, allowing Eaton to take third easily.
One batter later, Eaton crossed home plate via Gordon Beckham’s sacrifice fly to right, cutting the Twins’ lead to 4-3. It started to feel like deja vu for Perkins and Minnesota, with Friday’s blown save still fresh in everyone’s mind.
When Perkins needed strikeouts, the All-Star closer picked up two big ones. He surrendered a base hit by pinch hitter Paul Konerko with one out as Konerko’s liner up the middle nearly decapitated Perkins. Leury Garcia pinch ran for Konerko, putting speed on the base paths as the tying run.
Chicago first baseman Jose Abreu, who homered against Minnesota in Friday’s game, got ahead of Perkins, 2-1, in the at-bat before fouling off a pair of pitches. Perkins then threw an 84 mph slider that Abreu fouled into the glove of catcher Kurt Suzuki for the second out.
With Adam Dunn batting, Garcia stole second to put the tying run in scoring position. It didn’t matter to Perkins, who picked up another strikeout by blowing a 95 mph fastball by Dunn on the eighth pitch of the at-bat to end the game. That’s when Perkins let his emotions show a bit after helping the Twins win their third straight.
"I’ve had some good success against Dunn — knock on wood," Perkins said. "It’s never a comfortable at-bat, because if he hits it he’s going to hit it far. It was just staying with fastballs and I was going to make him beat me with my best pitch."
A closer’s next outing is never guaranteed, and the game situations will dictate the workloads. There are times when Perkins will go several games at a time without throwing a pitch.
Luckily for Perkins, Minnesota entered the ninth inning with a 4-2 lead for the third straight day against Chicago. After blowing the save in Friday’s 5-4 victory, Perkins didn’t have to wait long before he got his next chance to notch a save.
"You always want a chance at redemption," Perkins said. "I’m glad I had a two-run lead again, because it didn’t go how I wanted it to. I made the pitches when I needed to make them and got out of it. A win’s a win, that’s the most important thing."
With Saturday’s victory, Minnesota has now won three in a row after snapping a five-game losing streak on Thursday. Perkins has pitched in all three victories and has two saves and a win. His latest save was his 19th of the season, which puts him in third place among American League closers for most saves this year.
Life as a closer isn’t always a smooth ride, and Perkins experienced one of his rare bumps in the road Friday night. It wasn’t necessarily a breeze Saturday, either, but Perkins punctuated the day with a rare fist pump on the mound.
"A bounceback night for him," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. "He gave up a run and it got a little hairy there at the end, but he was out there pumping it 94, 95 mph against the big boy. Pretty exciting, to tell you the truth. He ended up winning the battle. A nice win for us."