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Twins beat AL Central-leading Tigers

DETROIT — Kyle Gibson faced Miguel Cabrera with the bases loaded in the fifth inning, clinging to a one-run lead. He delivered the pitch and got the result he wanted.

Gibson's sinker inside was hit into an inning-ending double play to help the Minnesota Twins keep their slim lead in a 2-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Friday night.

"It was a big pitch," Gibson acknowledged. "If you want to win a game and you want have a good outing, you've got to make that pitch against one of the best hitters in the game."

Gibson threw seven innings and Eduardo Escobar hit a solo homer in the third and drew a bases-loaded walk in the ninth, helping Minnesota win three straight for the first time in nearly a month and pull within three games of the AL Central-leading Tigers.

"These guys are a great baseball team and everybody knows it," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We have to come in here and win some of these games."

Gibson (6-5) allowed five hits and two walks while striking out three. He threw seven scoreless innings for a second straight start and held an opponent without a run for the third time in four outings.

"You certainly have to give credit to Gibson, who is a good pitcher, but we had opportunities and we didn't do anything with them," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said.

Casey Fien pitched a perfect eighth and Glen Perkins gave up one hit in the ninth, closing the game for his 17th save in 19 chances.

Drew Smyly (3-4) gave up one run, four hits and three walks over six innings.

Al Alburquerque and Joba Chamberlain each threw a scoreless inning of relief.

Minnesota added to its lead in the ninth against former Twin Joe Nathan.

Josh Willingham reached on a throwing error by shortstop Eugenio Suarez to lead off the ninth. Pinch-runner Sam Fuld advanced on a wild pitch and got to third on a groundout. Nathan later gave up a two-out walk to Trevor Plouffe and hit Eduardo Nunez to load the bases. Escobar walked to make it 2-0, chasing Nathan, who was booed as he walked to the dugout.

"We need Joe Nathan to pitch well, and we need him to close out games for us," Ausmus said. "He has the track record and he also had a really good stretch here where he saved a lot of games for us. So I've seen his success first hand."

Phil Coke entered and struck out Danny Santana to keep the Tigers within two runs.

Since a 27-12 start, Detroit has lost 17 of 24 games and it has struggled even more at home lately, losing 11 of 15 at Comerica Park.

"We're still in first place, and we just have to turn things around," Smyly said.

NOTES: Tigers RHP Luke Putkonen, who is out indefinitely, had elbow surgery Thursday and will be evaluated again in 6 to 8 weeks. ... Twins 2B Brian Dozier, who has played a team-high 64 games, was not in the lineup because of a back injury and might sit out of Saturday's game. ... Tigers OF Andy Dirks, who had back surgery in March, is expected to begin a rehab assignment in about a week if he does not have any setbacks. ... Minnesota put OF Aaron Hicks on the 15-day DL with a right shoulder strain, reinstated Fuld from his rehab assignment and recalled C Eric Fryer. ... Detroit RHP Anibal Sanchez (2-2) will pitch against Twins RHP Samuel Deduno (2-4) in the second game of the series Saturday afternoon.

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