Twins take Game 1 behind Gibson's eight scoreless
Plouffe, Pinto drive in two runs each to back righty on freezing day
MINNEAPOLIS -- Not even the coldest game-time temperature in Minnesota baseball history was enough to cool down the Twins' offense or right-hander Kyle Gibson's hot start to the season.
With a first-pitch temperature of 31 degrees, it marked the coldest outdoor home game in franchise history, topping the previous record of 32 degrees, which was set on May 2, 1967, when the Twins hosted the Yankees at Metropolitan Stadium.
But both the bats and Gibson stayed hot in a 7-0 win over the Blue Jays in the first game of a doubleheader on Thursday at Target Field. Gibson outpitched knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, tossing eight scoreless innings to improve to 3-0 with a 0.93 ERA in three starts this season.
"It was a nice performance," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Our starting pitcher set the tone, and boy, did he ever. He lobbied to stay back out there. He said to give him just 10 more pitches. But this early in the season, we're not going to do that to that kid's arm. But it was a great performance by him and some good hitting. We had a big five-run inning against a tough knuckleballer."
Both teams struggled offensively early in the game, before the Twins broke out for five runs in the fifth against Dickey to essentially put the game out of reach with the way Gibson was dealing.
Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer both singled with one out, before Trevor Plouffe brought home Dozier with a single to left field for the game's first run. After a walk from Chris Colabello to load the bases, Jason Kubel smacked an RBI single to right to bring home Mauer.
It set the stage for a two-run double from Josmil Pinto, who nearly hit the first grand slam of his career on a 3-1 fastball from Dickey, but it went off the wall in left-center field. Pinto's double knocked Dickey out of the game in favor of reliever Todd Redmond.
"As a team, we started to have better at-bats and started to get more comfortable seeing it," Colabello said of Dickey's knuckleball. "He settled in and up to that point, he was kind of on cruise control. But I think as a group, we just did a better job of having better at-bats and seeing the ball up in the zone and swinging when it was there. We were really patient when he was trying to nibble."
After Dickey departed, Redmond promptly gave up a sacrifice fly to Kurt Suzuki before getting Aaron Hicks to ground out to second to end the inning. It left Dickey with an ugly line, as the right-hander gave up five runs on seven hits and five walks over 4 1/3 innings to see his ERA rise to 6.26 on the year.
"I just didn't execute when I needed to make a big pitch, and they put good swings on them," Dickey said. "I'd get a good count and then really try to finish guys, and they would do a good job of laying off really good pitches."
Redmond gave up two unearned runs in the sixth, keyed by an error from second baseman Munenori Kawasaki. Plouffe brought home the first run with a sacrifice fly, before Colabello laced an RBI double to right field with two outs.
It was more than enough offense for Gibson, who has been a pleasant surprise as the club's best starting pitcher through three starts this season. Gibson threw eight scoreless frames, scattering just four hits and a walk with four strikeouts.
Although he asked to stay in for the ninth, the Twins opted to play it safe, as he was already at 105 pitches. But Gibson said he felt good in the seventh and eighth innings, and he believes it's an outing he can build on, especially after limiting his walk total this time out.
"I think it was just the adrenaline going," Gibson said. "I hadn't gone nine innings in a long time. I didn't use my slider until my third time through, and I think I still had a little bit of a weapon there to spring on them. So it was a lot of fun out there."
Gibson gave the Twins the added bonus of not taxing the bullpen in Game 1 of the doubleheader, as they only used reliever Anthony Swarzak for a scoreless ninth to seal the win, which snapped a five-game losing streak against the Blue Jays.
"It was a good performance right there," Gardenhire said. "We liked it and we needed it. It was a nice way to start this day."