MINNEAPOLIS -- For most of his 6 2/3 innings, Kyle Gibson was spotting and mixing his pitches effectively, attacking the strike zone and generating plenty of groundouts, as he generally does when he’s at his best.
Gibson has recognized at points this season that some of his frames have spiraled out of control, but he felt that a big inning on Monday night against the White Sox was not one of those. Jose Abreu’s three-run shot capped a four-run third against Gibson on an otherwise strong night for the right-hander in a 6-4 loss at Target Field.
“We can all point to the one pitch, one swing that put three runs on the board for them,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “It was just a pitch he would want back. Not really where he wanted to throw it, and we got beat on that pitch. Other than that, he executed the ball really well. He was sharp. If that pitch is not part of the equation, it's a heck of a start."
Gibson only needed 19 pitches to retire the first six batters he faced, including four groundouts and a strikeout before Matt Skole’s one-out single on a flare to left field in the third inning spelled trouble.
Yolmer Sanchez and Ryan Goins followed with singles before Abreu got a 92-mph two-seamer that ran down the middle of the plate and clubbed it a Statcast-estimated 442 feet into the left-center-field upper deck to give the White Sox the lead.
The fastball was supposed to be up and in, but Gibson missed his spot and let it hang over the middle of the plate.
“I feel like we had a good plan on that pitch,” Gibson said. “After his first at-bat, we kind of felt like he was looking for the ball down in the zone. The plan was to execute a heater up and in and try to keep him off that and then go to the breaking stuff. Unfortunately, I didn't get it high enough.”
“When you make that kind of connection, you don’t feel the ball hit the bat,” Abreu said through an interpreter.
Looking back at that inning -- and his outing as a whole -- Gibson felt that he executed most of his pitches effectively and fell victim to some bad luck, with Skole’s popup falling just out of Eddie Rosario’s reach in left before the other two singles went just out of reach of his infielders.
Gibson again settled down, retiring 10 straight White Sox hitters after a fielding error by second baseman Luis Arraez as he kept his pitch count down and lasted into the seventh inning for the first time in three starts.
He again ran into trouble after a leadoff double led to a surprise squeeze-bunt RBI with two strikes by Sanchez in the seventh and was pulled after having allowed five earned runs in 6 2/3 innings. But he kept the ball on the ground, having generated 12 groundouts among his 20 outs, and only allowed hard-hit contact on five of the 22 balls in play against him.
“It's always tough to look back at six, seven innings and giving up five runs and feeling too good about it,” Gibson said. “In this case, I picked the wrong time to not execute a pitch. When I look back at how many pitches I executed and where my stuff was, it's one of those weird nights where I felt like I threw the ball pretty well and unfortunately got beat by the wrong guy at the wrong time.”
Abreu’s big swing negated a strong game from the new-look top of the Twins’ lineup featuring Arraez in the leadoff spot for the first time in his career and Nelson Cruz back in the three-hole following his activation from the 10-day injured list. Arraez, Polanco, Cruz and Eddie Rosario, the first four hitters, combined for 10 hits and all four runs scored and RBIs in the game.
Arraez and Polanco began the game with back-to-back doubles before Cruz tapped an RBI single in a two-run first, while Polanco added a solo homer in the seventh inning, his fourth as a right-handed hitter this season.
They also sparked a rally off White Sox closer Alex Colome in the ninth inning, when singles by Arraez, Cruz and Rosario pulled the Twins within two runs before Miguel Sano struck out to end the game.