"Was looking at me going, 'I don't know. I don't know what we've got here,'" Gardenhire said.
With relievers warming in the bullpen, Gibson promptly retired the next six batters.
"He bowed his neck a little bit as they say, old-school baseball, and he hung in there and got us through six innings," Gardenhire said after his Twins beat the Detroit Tigers 8-4 on Wednesday night.
"After he took me out after the sixth, I thanked him for leaving me in there," Gibson said. "It was good for me to get settled down and good for me to get that experience."
Gibson won for only the third time in his last nine starts as the Twins touched up Tigers starter David Price to tighten the division race ahead of Detroit's big weekend series in Kansas City.
The Tigers ended the night with a half-game lead over the second-place Royals.
Gibson retired 10 of the final 13 batters he faced.
"That's the thing that separates the guys that throw 230 innings from the guys that throw 170 like I am now," Gibson said. "They find a way to get through seven, eight innings or six innings when they don't have their best stuff."
Minnesota overcame Miguel Cabrera's 4-for-5 performance, thanks in part to a costly Tigers mistake on the bases in the seventh.
With the Twins up 6-4 and Torii Hunter on first, Cabrera doubled to advance Hunter to third. Victor Martinez grounded to first baseman Joe Mauer, and Cabrera — apparently expecting Hunter to break for the plate — was caught off second and tagged out for an inning-ending double play.
"I think Torii probably saw that I could come home," Mauer said. "I was ready to fire home if needed, but saw Cabrera off and that was a good double play."
Santana had three hits and finished a home run short of the cycle. He also scored three times.
Mauer and Santana each added an RBI single in the eighth for insurance.
SETTLING FOR THREE
Brian Dozier narrowly missed his 21st homer in the sixth when he drove in Santana to put Minnesota up 5-4. The ball hit off the top of the center-field wall, and Dozier wound up with a triple off reliever Al Albuquerque.
"I thought it was out, but it was a good thing he kept running," said Mauer, who watched the hit from the on-deck circle.
DOWN ON THE FARM
The Twins announced a four-year player development contract with the Chattanooga Lookouts after ending their affiliation with Double-A New Britain. It marks the Lookouts' first affiliation with an AL team since 1987, when they were a Seattle Mariners farm team.
Tigers: C Alex Avila missed his third straight game with concussion-like symptoms and remains day to day.
Twins: All-Star closer Glen Perkins will have his pitching arm examined Thursday, general manager Terry Ryan told reporters before the game. Perkins blew a chance for his 35th save on Tuesday night when he allowed a three-run homer in the ninth. ... INF Eduardo Escobar (shoulder) and OF Oswaldo Arcia (back) are both day to day.
Minnesota RHP Phil Hughes (15-10) will try to become the sixth AL pitcher to win 16 games on Friday when the Twins begin their weekend series against Cleveland. He'll face Indians righty Trevor Bauer (5-8).
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