Perkins helps save much-needed victory for Twins
MINNEAPOLIS — Not much has come easy for the Minnesota Twins this season.
The ninth inning of Sunday’s game against Chicago was no exception.
After the Twins came back to take a lead in the seventh inning, the White Sox scored once in the eighth to cut Minnesota’s lead to one. Yet even with All-Star closer Glen Perkins in to pitch the ninth, things got dicey for the Twins.
Despite loading the bases with one out, Perkins escaped the jam and helped save a much-needed 4-3 victory for Minnesota. It ended what was a rough 10-game homestand for the Twins, who went just 3-7 during that stretch.
"It’s probably good that we didn’t get swept in a four-game series," Perkins said. "Winning one isn’t a great consolation prize, but it’s better than losing. Hopefully it’ll give us a little momentum."
Perkins entered Sunday’s game with 24 saves on the year, and he had to sweat a bit to get save No. 25. After a leadoff single to Jose Abreu to start the ninth inning, Perkins surrendered another single, this time to pinch hitter Paul Konerko. Chicago pinch ran for both hitters, putting speed at first and third base with nobody out and the Twins clinging to a one-run lead.
Needing a strikeout, Perkins got one when he fanned Dayan Viciedo for the first out of the inning. That left pinch runners Leury Garcia at third base and Moises Sierra at first. But Perkins didn’t do himself any favors by walking third baseman Conor Gillaspie to load the bases with one out.
"Gillaspie took a hell of a pitch to draw that walk. I can’t believe he didn’t swing at that," Perkins said. "So then you’ve got the bases loaded. In a way, that’s OK. It gives you a force at every base. The other two guys, neither of them hit the ball really well, but they both got hits."
Once again, Perkins picked up a big strikeout in a key situation. He got Alejandro De Aza to strike out on a 1-2 pitch after De Aza fouled off a pair of two-strike pitches. That brought up Gordon Beckham as the White Sox’s last hope to tie the game or take the lead.
The final at-bat certainly raised the blood pressure in the Twins dugout as Beckham fouled off three pitches down the left field line before finally flying out to left fielder Sam Fuld to end the game.
"I’d rather have a 1-2-3 inning," Perkins said. "I try to forget about the bad ones, and I try to forget about the good ones. If you have a good one or if you have a bad one, it’s all about the next day."
That closer’s mentality of taking it one game at a time is the way the Twins are trying to approach the final two months of the season. Sunday’s win leaves them at 10 games under .500 (47-57) as they embark on a road trip that starts Tuesday in Kansas City.
Minnesota was hoping that this 10-game homestand could help give the Twins some momentum coming out of the All-Star break. Instead, they won just three of 10 games and fell even further into the American League Central cellar.
"They come to play. I give them that every day. Those guys go out there and they do the work they’re supposed to," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. "It’s been really frustrating around here. We know we haven’t hit much and we haven’t pitched very much on this homestand, so a very disappointing homestand. But to get the win today was huge. A lot of smiles out there, a lot of relief."
No one was more relieved than Perkins, who less than two weeks earlier was pitching at this same field to close out the All-Star Game in front of his hometown fans. He had blown just three saves all year prior to Sunday and certainly didn’t want to let this one slip away.
Thanks to Perkins’ escape act, Minnesota snapped its three-game skid and now heads onto the road on the heels of a win. There’s plenty the Twins need to straighten out when they do hit the road, as was evidenced by the recent homestand.
"I’ve said many times that we’re not a bad team. We’re just inconsistent," Perkins said. "That’s because we score runs one day and we don’t the next day and we pitch good one day and we don’t pitch good the next day. That’s been the most frustrating part is that we’re just inconsistent. Hopefully we’ll show up. Hopefully we’ll go to Kansas City and play the baseball that we know we’re capable of."
Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter