NEW YORK -- Kyle Gibson turned in one of the best starts of his career, but it was spoiled when closer Fernando Rodney was unable to protect a two-run lead in a disheartening 4-3 loss Thursday to the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. The defeat was capped by a walk-off three-run
NEW YORK -- Kyle Gibson turned in one of the best starts of his career, but it was spoiled when closer Fernando Rodney was unable to protect a two-run lead in a disheartening 4-3 loss Thursday to the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. The defeat was capped by a walk-off three-run homer from Gary Sanchez that extended the Twins' losing streak to seven games.
Rodney induced a pair of grounders to open the inning, but Didi Gregorius reached on a throwing error from Miguel Sano and Giancarlo Stanton reached on an infield single. It led to Sanchez's homer down the left-field line to put an exclamation point on Minnesota's prolonged woes in the Bronx. It was also Rodney's third blown save of the year, and it saw his ERA rise to 6.75 this season.
"The game can be a little bit cruel," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "[Gibson] put us in a really good position to break out of this thing, but we couldn't close the deal. We got to the ninth and we had trouble making plays that cost us some baserunners. And then Sanchez made us pay."
Molitor said he still trusts Rodney as his closer going forward, and Rodney blamed bad location for the walk-off homer coming on an inside 0-1 fastball.
"I was trying to get a ground-ball double play," Rodney said. "Threw the pitch a little bit high in the strike zone, that's why he could use his hands. He's got quick hands."
It was the latest tough loss for the Twins, who have been outscored, 59-25, during their seven-game losing streak, which is the club's longest since Aug. 18-31, 2016. Since 2015, they're also 1-14 at Yankee Stadium, including the postseason.
"We feel like we have a very talented team, but we fell into a bit of a rough patch," Twins general manager Thad Levine said. "These are moments of adversity that either galvanize the group or hamstring the group. I'm very confident that with the talent we have in that room and the leadership, that this is going to be galvanizing."
With the Twins desperate for a win to conclude their road trip, Gibson delivered in a losing effort, setting a career high with 10 strikeouts while allowing one hit over six innings. He registered 19 swinging strikes, including 11 with his slider. It was the most swinging strikes induced by a Twins starter this year, and it was one of Gibson's career best. He carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning for the second time this season, only to see Brett Gardner deliver a two-out single to break up the bid.
"You're going to have stretches like this where you're in quite a few ballgames, and the ball just can't bounce your way," Gibson said. "Snakebitten, unlucky, whatever you want to call it. But nobody in here is playing the victim, nobody in here is trying to make excuses, we just have to be a little bit better."
Gibson was helped by homers from Eduardo Escobar and Robbie Grossman. Escobar smacked a two-run homer off lefty Jordan Montgomery in the third to give the Twins an early lead before Grossman added an insurance run with a solo shot off reliever Domingo German in the sixth.
Right-hander Addison Reed relieved Gibson in the seventh, giving up a run on a sacrifice fly from Aaron Hicks after a leadoff double from Stanton and a wild pitch. Zach Duke threw a scoreless eighth inning, stranding Gleyber Torres at second, with a strikeout of Aaron Judge.
"I'm not sure where the pitch was that got to the screen," Molitor said. "But that cost us one run."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Grounders lead to rally: Rodney induced weak contact early in the ninth, but the Twins couldn't catch a break. Sano's throw bounced on the way to Logan Morrison, who couldn't make the play at first, while Stanton's slow roller was a swinging bunt between Sano and shortstop Ehire Adrianza. It was more bad luck for the Twins, with Sanchez capitalizing with his first career walk-off homer.
"There were just some grounders in there that could have been outs," Sano said. "That's just baseball."
Gibson became the first Twins pitcher to record 10 strikeouts against the Yankees since Eric Milton did it on July 29, 2000. Prior to Milton, the previous Twins pitcher to reach 10 K's against the Yanks was Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven on May 1, 1987.
HE SAID IT
"I think they're officially [ticked] off now. I'd expect they're going to go home and be happy to play in front of the home crowd not wearing ski caps. I believe things are going to turn around in short order. I think it's going to add to the character of this team and doesn't tear the fabric at all. I'm as excited as I am about this team as I was on Opening Day, and I think we're going to be there right until the end." -- Levine
After scuffling on their road trip through Puerto Rico, Tampa Bay and New York, the Twins are happy to head home to Target Field for a three-game Interleague series against the Reds that begins on Friday at 7:10 p.m. CT. Right-hander Phil Hughes will make his second start of the year after missing time early in the season with a left oblique strain, while the Reds will counter with right-hander Luis Castillo. Hughes, who gave up two runs in 3 1/3 innings against the Rays on Sunday, has to prove he can be effective after two surgeries to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome.
Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.