Cool under pressure

MINNEAPOLIS — With a little more than a month left in the regular season and every win magnified in the chase for an American League wild-card spot, Kyle Gibson looked razor sharp.

The right-hander tossed 51/3 innings on Friday to earn his first win since July 12 while helping the Twins earn a 3-0 victory against the Houston Astros at Target Field.

The Twins’ win marked their seventh in the past eight games and kept them within reach of the Texas Rangers for the second AL wild-card spot.

Gibson, who had a 7.22 ERA in seven outings since his last win, scattered four hits and three walks with four strikeouts. He outdueled Astros lefty Scott Kazmir, who surrendered three runs on three hits, two hit-by-pitches and a walk during seven frames of work. Kazmir struck out six.

“I probably should’ve gone seven or eight tonight, so that’s the only frustrating part about it,” Gibson told reporters. “But any time you can leave an outing healthy without giving up any runs is a good thing. It’s a little frustrating I couldn’t get into the seventh or eighth, but throwing 5⅔ innings of shutout ball, you’re giving your team a chance to win, obviously.”

The Twins’ bullpen picked up where Gibson (9-9) left off to preserve the Greenfield-Central graduate’s ninth victory this season.

For much of the year, the bullpen was falling short. But now that All-Star closer Glen Perkins is back healthy and Trevor May and Kevin Jepsen are throwing heat, the Twins are looking to shorten games when needed as they chase their first playoff berth in five years.

Jepsen picked up his ninth save after Perkins and May stopped the Astros in the seventh and eight innings.

“If you look at playoff teams, it’s the bullpen that needs to lock down wins to get them there,” Jepsen said. “So many times when you have the lead after the fifth inning, sixth inning, those are games you expect to win. … We take a lot of pride in that as a bullpen down there.”

Jepsen retired Astros star Jose Altuve on a fly ball with the bases loaded to end it.

The offense was gritty, providing Gibson with early run support when Eduardo Nunez led off the third with his third home run of the season and the Twins loaded the bases with nobody out in the fourth.

Kazmir hit Torii Hunter to force one home and then Altuve made a stellar play at second base to turn what would have been a two-run single for Nunez into an RBI groundout that gave the Twins a 3-0 lead.

Perkins, who leads the AL with 31 saves, struck out two in his perfect seventh inning in his first action since Sunday because of a sore back.

The Twins won the series 2-1 with a 1-4 loss on Saturday and a 7-5 win on Sunday.

Up next

The Twins play host to the Chicago White Sox beginning today for a three-game series at Target Field. Gibson is scheduled to take the mound Thursday. He is 3-0 in his career against the White Sox and carries a 2.20 ERA in four starts.

By the numbers

Minnesota Twins’ Kyle Gibson recorded the win against the Houston Astros, surrendering zero runs in 5.2 innings Friday night. The Greenfield-Central graduate’s pitching line against the Astros as well as for the season: