MINNEAPOLIS -- Since taking over as closer roughly halfway through the 2011 season, Glen Perkins has quietly established himself as one of baseball's better late-game stoppers.
He was an All-Star last season, and converted 36 of his 40 save chances with a 2.30 ERA on the year. But Perkins looked headed toward blowing a second straight save Friday against the Mariners just a night after giving up two runs in an eventual 4-3 win in extra innings over the Red Sox on Thursday.
But Perkins was able to strand Michael Saunders in scoring position, registering three key outs in the ninth to preserve a 5-4 win at Target Field on a night where Kyle Gibson bounced back from a rough outing to turn in seven strong innings, and Josmil Pinto and Brian Dozier homered.
"Another exciting baseball game," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Our guys came out swinging and got a lead but we had to hang on there a little bit. Perk at the end -- that was huge. It was a big comeback for him after yesterday."
With the Twins clinging to a one-run lead in the ninth after Caleb Thielbar was charged with three runs in the eighth, Perkins gave up a leadoff single to Saunders, who reached second on a wild pitch with Robinson Cano at the plate.
But Perkins was able to get Cano to ground out to second base for the first out before getting Corey Hart to pop up on the infield and Justin Smoak to ground out weakly to Perkins to leave Saunders at third. Perkins said both out pitches to Hart and Smoak were hanging sliders, but was happy to come away with the victory and earn his 11th save in 13 chances.
"It's just the luck of the draw," Perkins said. "Yesterday I had no luck and today I threw worse pitches than I did yesterday but I get two outs out of it."
It helped Gibson, who lasted a career-worst two innings in his last start, and was much better this time out, as he gave up just one run on six hits and two walks with four strikeouts. He improved to 4-3 with a 4.20 ERA on the season, getting his first win since April 17.
"It's always good to be on the winning side of a game," Gibson said. "It was a good team win today. The offense did a nice job early getting the lead and putting on runs, which is always good to see. The defense did a great job behind me and I got a lot of ground balls."
The only run he surrendered came in the fifth on a two-out RBI double off the left-center field wall from Cano after Saunders drew a two-out walk. He ran into trouble in his final inning, putting runners at first and third with two outs, but was able to get Cano to ground out to second to end the potential rally.
"I thought Gibby's ball was still coming out of his hand good still," Gardenhire said. "He'd given up one run and five hits at that point. I wasn't worried at all."
Gibson outpitched Mariners right-hander Chris Young, who went seven innings, but allowed a season-worst five runs on 10 hits and a walk.
"It just wasn't my best," Young said. "When I made a mistake, they hit it. And when I made a good pitch, I felt like they hit it, too. Some nights you run into a hot team and you tip your hat."
The Twins opened the scoring with two runs in the third, keyed by three doubles, including RBI doubles from Dozier and Trevor Plouffe after Aaron Hicks led off the frame with a double.
Minnesota added a run in the fourth on a solo shot from Pinto with two outs. The homer was Pinto's sixth of the year and came on a 1-2 slider. Dozier gave the Twins another run in the fifth on a solo blast of his own coming on an 0-1 fastball. It was Dozier's team-leading 10th homer the year, and his ninth of the solo variety.
"He left a lot of pitches up in the zone," Dozier said. "He's been getting guys out with that angle because he's eight-feet tall or whatever. But he left a lot of pitches up in the zone so even our outs were loud outs. So we took advantage of that."
The Twins scored their final run against Young in the sixth on an RBI single from Eduardo Escobar with the bases loaded and one out. But the Twins left the bases loaded, as Dozier flied out to right and Joe Mauer grounded back to Young to end the inning.
Thielbar allowed the Mariners to get back in the game in the eighth, as he surrendered a two-run triple to Dustin Ackley with one out. Right-hander Casey Fien got Mike Zunino to fly out to deep center field to score Ackley on a sacrifice fly before striking out James Jones looking after walking Brad Miller.
Perkins then walked a tight-rope in the ninth to preserve the win for the Twins, who improved to 20-20 on the season. It's the latest in the year they've been at least .500 since ending the 2010 season with a 94-68 record.