With the Twins riding a six-game losing streak and coming off a 15-0 loss, manager Ron Gardenhire knew how much was at stake Tuesday night when he turned a two-run lead over to Joe Nathan in the eighth inning.

The Dodgers had a runner on first, no outs, and National League triple crown candidate Matt Kemp at the plate.

Nathan had a 7.71 ERA and hadn't been in a situation this stressful since late May, before he went on the disabled list because of a strained flexor muscle in his surgically repaired right elbow.

"We had used up pretty much our whole bullpen [Monday]," Gardenhire said. "It was just going to be on Nathan's shoulders to get it done."

Nathan welcomed the challenge, delivering a stirring performance to help preserve the 6-4 victory at Target Field.

"It was nice to get into a game where I had some good adrenaline out there," Nathan said. "Definitely some excitement."

The tension built gradually before Nathan entered. Trailing 4-1, the Dodgers came back to tie it with three runs off Twins starter Brian Duensing in the fifth inning, but Luke Hughes answered with a two-run homer that same inning.

Duensing (5-7) had the lead again, but he hit Juan Uribe with a pitch to open the sixth. Gardenhire needed 12 outs, and righthander Alex Burnett got four of them.

Glen Perkins got two outs to end the seventh, but Andre Ethier singled to start the eighth, and Gardenhire summoned Nathan to face Kemp.

Nathan had made one appearance since returning from the DL -- in Saturday's 11-1 loss in Milwaukee -- and given up a home run to Corey Hart.

"That outing definitely helped," Nathan said. "It let me know that my fastball was better. I think my breaking pitches were a little sharper. Even though I did give up the home run on a good at-bat by Hart, it definitely gave me peace of mind."