MINNEAPOLIS -- Kyle Gibson is quietly having a breakout season, and the Twins right-hander turned in another strong outing to outpitch Rays ace Blake Snell in a 5-1 win on Thursday night at Target Field. Minnesota improved to 7-1 on its current homestand, which leads into the All-Star break.After a
MINNEAPOLIS -- Kyle Gibson is quietly having a breakout season, and the Twins right-hander turned in another strong outing to outpitch Rays ace Blake Snell in a 5-1 win on Thursday night at Target Field. Minnesota improved to 7-1 on its current homestand, which leads into the All-Star break.
After a two-hour rain delay, Gibson allowed one run over eight innings, scattering five hits and striking out nine to improve to 4-6 with a 3.42 ERA. Gibson's record isn't indicative of his season as he's been hurt by poor run support, and it's clear his stuff and command are much improved with his 114 strikeouts in 115 2/3 innings. It was the first time Gibson went eight innings since Sept. 13, 2016.
"He's just getting so many more swings and misses with his offspeed pitches," Twins manager Paul Molitor said of Gibson, who registered 16 swinging strikes. "I thought early, it wasn't great as far as command, but he kept throwing it, and it seemed like he settled in with his offspeed stuff, especially through the middle innings."
Gibson could be a candidate to be moved before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, given his consistency dating back to the second half of last year, as he's posted a 3.47 ERA with 183 strikeouts in 183 1/3 innings over his last 30 starts, dating back to Aug. 1, 2017. He doesn't become a free agent until after next season, which improves his trade value, but much of the decision depends on if the Twins can continue their recent surge to avoid being sellers -- they're 7 1/2 games back of the Indians in the American League Central -- and whether they feel like they can get the right package, considering he can be a major part of the rotation next year.
"Our job, just like last year, is to make the decisions tough on the front office," Gibson said. "We want to get them to give us as much time as possible to get a lead in the division. I feel like coming out of the All-Star break, we have a really good chance to be one or two games back and really make those decisions tough on them."
Gibson faced only a few jams, including in the first inning, when he allowed a pair of two-out singles before getting a strikeout to end the frame. He also pitched around leadoff doubles in the fourth and seventh. He didn't give up a run until the eighth, on a sacrifice fly from Kevin Kiermaier after Adeiny Hechavarria opened with a double.
Snell, who entered with a 2.09 ERA that was the second-best mark in the AL, struggled, allowing three runs on five hits and three walks over three innings in his shortest outing of the season.
Snell's command was off as he loaded the bases with one out in the first after back-to-back walks, but he got out of the inning unscathed. But in the second, he issued a leadoff walk to Max Kepler, who later came around to score on a double-play grounder from Bobby Wilson.
The Twins scored two runs in the third on back-to-back RBI doubles from Robbie Grossman and Jorge Polanco. James Dozier started the rally with a single, reached second on a wild pitch and was attempting to steal third when he scored on Grossman's double down the right-field line.
"Even in the first inning, we missed an opportunity, but we got him up near 30 pitches right out of the gate, and we kind of kept the pressure on him," Molitor said. "A double-play ball by Bobby. Robbie kind of squeezed one inside the right-field line there. Got a little lucky there. Polanco had the big hit."
Minnesota broke it open with a two-run homer from Eddie Rosario, who came in fourth in the balloting for the Camping World MLB All-Star Final Vote in the AL and remains a possible All-Star candidate as an injury replacement. It was the team-leading 19th homer of the year for Rosario, who connected on a 2-0 slider from former Twins prospect Chih-Wei Hu.
"It still felt uneasy, even as well as Gibby was throwing -- that's why I thought Rosie's add-on home run was big." Molitor said. "As you see there the last couple innings, you never have enough."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Rodney saves it: Rosario's home run proved to be valuable with Thomas Pressly loading the bases with one out in the ninth, leading closer Fernando Rodney to come in to get out of the jam. Rodney took a comebacker off his forearm, but he got out of the inning unscathed for his 21st save of the season.
"I didn't think we'd have to go to Rodney, but he did a nice job of getting those last two guys," Molitor said. "And he's going to have a little bruise on his left forearm to show for it."
Gibson's 114 strikeouts before the All-Star break are tied for 15th most in Twins history. The club record is 151 by Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven in 1973. The Twins have three players with at least 100 strikeouts before this year's All-Star break, as Gibson joins Jose Berrios (122) and Jake Odorizzi (102). It's only the second time in club history, as Dave Boswell (119), Dean Chance (115) and Jim Kaat (101) did it in 1967.
"I don't know if there's too many differences from last year to this year," said Gibson, who had a 6.31 ERA with 51 strikeouts in 81 1/3 innings in the first half last year. "That might sound crazy. Once I got sent down and called back up, I really just tried to work on fastball command in the zone, and I think that made a big difference."
HE SAID IT
"I think for halfway through 2016 and the first part of 2017, I lost sight of how good I could possibly be. When you struggle for 35, 40 starts in a row, it is pretty tough, and it wasn't just struggling. It was getting beat up every five days, and even my decent outings were giving up three or four runs. That can do a lot mentally and kind of make you second guess who you could be and second guess who you are on the mound. I just lost sight of who I could be. And when I got called up, I got a little confidence back and figured out a few things here and there with my fastball and was able to get on a pretty good streak." -- Gibson, on his increased confidence this season
Odorizzi (4-6, 4.28 ERA) is set to take the mound against his former team in the second game of the series against the Rays on Friday at 7:10 p.m. CT. After a rough stretch when he posted a 8.77 ERA over six starts, Odorizzi has turned it around with a 1.06 ERA over his last three outings. The Rays will start right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (3-3, 3.35).
Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.