Twin billing: Perkins, Suzuki team to close out NL
Minnesota closer earns ASG save as battery enters in ninth in front of home crowd
MINNEAPOLIS -- Glen Perkins heard the noise build as he left the bullpen.
Eight innings of waiting had crept by with painful slowness for the Twins pitcher, and the weight of the moment -- an All-Star save opportunity in front of the home crowd -- pounded in his chest.
"I wasn't fighting back tears, but it was an overwhelming moment to hear the buildup as I walked out of the 'pen," Perkins said. "And then it got louder and louder."
Joined by Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki for the final frame, Perkins flew through a one-two-three ninth inning in the American League's 5-3 victory over the National League on Tuesday night at Target Field.
The sellout crowd was absolutely thrilled.
"It was pretty cool to see the ovation they gave Perkins," Atlanta's Craig Kimbrel said. "I know how psyched he was to do it in front of the home crowd. I grew up a Braves fan, and he grew up a Twins fan. So he's living his dream. To have the opportunity to do what he did tonight was pretty awesome."
After his long wait, Perkins only needed nine pitches to get the save. He forced Arizona's Miguel Montero to pop out to center, struck out Pittsburgh's Josh Harrison swinging, and then forced Colorado's Charlie Blackmon into a groundout to end the game.
"I was numb," Perkins said. "When I started running in between innings, I knew we had so much time between innings that I tried to slow down, but I couldn't. I had to come out here and take time between pitches. But, whoa, that was awesome. I'm still in shock.
"It makes me want to get to the playoffs, because that's a playoff atmosphere right here, and they loved it. And that's what it's about; it's for the fans. And thanks to [AL manager] John Farrell for getting me in there, that's a treat right there."
The closer signed a four-year contract extension this spring for roughly $21 million to stay in Minnesota through 2017, and he's backed that up with 22 saves at the break, fourth-best in the AL.
"I believe in where we're going," he said. "That's why I wanted to be here for longer than I was going to be here before."
Suzuki got a chance to play in the All-Star Game for the first time in his eighth year. He wasn't sure he would get another opportunity after being snubbed in 2009, when he was hitting .293 with 37 RBIs at the break for the Athletics.
"There were some great catchers on that team," Suzuki said. "Obviously, I would've loved to make the team, don't get me wrong, but I was just happy to have a good start to the year, to be mentioned."
Five years later, the native Hawaiian has 37 RBIs again to go with an improved .309 average. Tuesday, he helped guide Perkins through a memorable ninth inning.
"He had his stuff tonight," Suzuki said. "That's for sure. You could tell he had some extra adrenaline running through, and I did, too. It's a cool moment to have the fans give you a standing O when you're coming out to catch and Perkins is coming in from the bullpen."
With the All-Star Game behind them, Perkins and Suzuki now have their sights set on the back half of the schedule. The Twins are currently tied with the White Sox for fourth in the AL Central, 10 1/2 games behind the divison-leading Tigers.
"We just had a good road trip, and that's all that really matters for us," Perkins said. "We need to be a little more consistent. We're not a bad team, we're just inconsistent."
No matter how this season turns out for the Twins, their closer will always remember the ovation he received this July.
"That doesn't happen during the regular season," Perkins said. "It was a moment like that where you realize why you play the game and what makes the game so fun: it's the fans in the stands."