MINNEAPOLIS — Twins closer Glen Perkins didn’t get to pitch in his first All-Star Game. He got as close as warming up in the bullpen in the ninth inning Tuesday, but never saw the field.
Friday’s game against Cleveland might not have been of the same magnitude, but Perkins got his chance to pitch and was pivotal in Minnesota’s 3-2 win over the Indians. The Twins’ victory was also thanks in part to their other All-Star: catcher Joe Mauer, who drove in the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth to set up Perkins’ 22nd save of the year.
“It’s how we wanted to start the first game and start the second half,” Perkins said Friday. “It was good that they pitched to Joe, gave him a chance. Thank you for that. That was good to see.”
Indeed, the Indians opted to pitch to Mauer in the eighth with a runner on third and two outs. Cleveland also had left-hander Rich Hill warming in the bullpen, but Indians manager Terry Francona left right-hander Joe Smith in to face Mauer. The Twins catcher, who appeared in his sixth All-Star Game on Tuesday, lined a base hit to center on a 2-2 count against Smith.
That scored Pedro Florimon to give Minnesota a 3-2 lead. The Twins shortstop led off the inning with a single and eventually moved to third on a double play by No. 2 batter Trevor Plouffe.
Florimon was also instrumental in helping Perkins close out the ninth inning. Cleveland’s Michael Brantley led off the top of the ninth against Perkins and hit a liner between shortstop and third base. Florimon dove for the ball and made a highlight-reel catch for the first out.
The grab elicited a reaction from Perkins, who is usually more subdued on the mound.
“An unbelievable play. That should be in the Top 10 for a while,” Perkins said. “A play like that, he was sprawled out like Superman. That’s an important out, the first guy, a speed guy like that. … You want to get him out. Flo made an unbelievable play.”
Florimon’s grab helped Perkins earn his first save in nearly a week — and just his second save since late June. He closed out the Twins’ 4-1 win against the Yankees on July 13 and pitched again the next day in Minnesota’s 10-4 win. And while he warmed up in the All-Star Game, he did not face a batter.
“I started getting a little impatient, but at the same time you understand what’s going on and that you can’t really alter that,” Perkins said. “When they call down and tell you to get up or get in a game, then I do. You’ve got to try to do your best.”
While Mauer was a seasoned veteran at his sixth All-Star Game, everything was new for Perkins at Citi Field in New York. The stage was bigger, the lights were brighter.
Even though he was the new guy, Perkins still felt he belonged there with the rest of the All-Stars. And he made sure to soak in the environment. That included a chat in the bullpen with Yankees closer and future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera, who told stories during the game of his rookie year in New York.
“It was a fun experience for him, and he wanted to share some of the memories from his career,” Perkins said. “He told some pretty good stories about what the guys did. He bridged a generation. … I think he liked telling those stories and kind of telling what it used to be like.”
Fresh off his first All-Star experience, Perkins picked up where he left off in the first half of the year. Entering Friday’s game, he had 21 saves, a 1.82 ERA and a WHIP of 0.808.
The brief layoff didn’t seem to affect Perkins, who pitched a perfect ninth inning to give the Twins their third straight win.
“Tonight, he was fired up out there,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We need to pitch him a lot. That would make us look a little bit better if we get those opportunities.”