Twins ride Gibson's 8 scoreless, Garver's homer

Rogers works 9th, completes shutout of Royals with 7th save

June 15th, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS -- thought his warmup session in the bullpen before Friday night’s game was as erratic as he had been in a while.

“It felt like I slept on my right arm all night,” he said.

Gibson quickly found his feel for his curveball and changeup, and he was virtually untouchable thereafter in his longest outing of the season, needing only 88 pitches to keep the Royals at bay over eight shutout innings before 's eighth-inning homer pushed the Twins to a 2-0 victory at Target Field.

As Garver and Gibson walked back across the field from the bullpen prior to the start of the series opener, Garver wasn’t concerned.

“He’s a vet,” Garver said. “He’ll figure it out on the field.”

Garver was right.

The 31-year-old Gibson struck out six and he did not issue a walk, as he induced 11 groundouts and faced only one batter over the minimum. The outing was his longest since he threw eight frames against the Red Sox on July 26, 2018.

“Gibby was phenomenal,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I don't think he could have thrown the ball any better. He had total command of everything -- everything he was doing, everything he was trying to do. Command, feel, mixing his pitches exceptionally well. The pure stuff was very good. It was just a wonderful start from the beginning until the eighth inning.”

Gibson struck out three of the first six hitters he faced and he allowed only one baserunner through the first five innings -- which he promptly erased on a double play. A bloop single by Billy Hamilton was all the right-hander allowed after that. Gibson really did have all of his pitches humming: he recorded strikeouts with the fastball, slider, changeup and curveball.

As the game wore on, and Gibson and Royals starter Brad Keller quickly traded zero after zero, Gibson recalled his occasional struggles in the late innings throughout the season and said he honed his focus and adrenaline to keep from being the first to blink in the pitchers’ duel.

It showed on the radar gun.

Gibson’s fastball had averaged 93 mph entering the start, but he reared back for 95.5 mph twice as late as the sixth inning.

“I’m trying to make sure that I keep that same focus and really kind of hone in there that third time through the order, and try to make sure that every pitch I’m making, I’m not taking anything off,” Gibson said.

The only problem was that the normally powerful Twins offense hadn’t been able to give him any run support. But when those runs finally came in the eighth with Garver’s shot over the center-field fence, even with Gibson’s relatively low pitch count, Baldelli chose to close the game out with relief ace Taylor Rogers, who earned his seventh save.

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“There was no sign that it was time to get Kyle out of the game,” Baldelli said. "He threw the ball so well. I think there are a lot of factors. It's a good, close game. We have [Rogers], who is as good as it gets with what he does, extremely well-rested and ready to go. Truthfully, I don't think there is a wrong decision there.”

Garver: ‘That’s something you dream about’

As Garver dug into the batter’s box in the eighth inning with two out, his confident inner voice was predicting that he would play the hero -- and he needed to shake that off.

“Right before that pitch, I got into my own head,” Garver said. “I was like, ‘I’m going to hit a home run here.’”

As it turned out, four of his teammates had called the homer, according to Gibson.

“I was like, ‘No, no, no,’” Garver said. “I stepped out, grabbed a piece of dirt, and was like, ‘I need to reset.’”

He regrouped, planned to cheat to the fastball and he hoped to go to the right-center-field gap. He got that fastball, a sinker over the outside part of the plate, and crushed it a projected 405 feet, according to Statcast, out to left-center field. 

“It’s a little cliché, but that’s something you dream about,” Garver said.

He got the curtain call he’d been dreaming about throughout his career.

“By far the coolest thing I’ve ever done on a baseball field, by far,” Garver said. “I’ve never had a curtain call. I’ve always dreamed. I’ve watched Joe [Mauer] do them. I’ve watched [Eddie Rosario] do them. Like, ‘Man, I want to get one of those one day.’”

A stat that mattered

During the sixth inning, Gibson became the 11th pitcher to eclipse 1,000 career innings as a member of the Twins, joining a distinguished list that includes Jim Kaat, Bert Blyleven, Brad Radke, Jim Perry, Frank Viola, Dave Goltz, Johan Santana, Camilo Pascual, Kevin Tapani and Dave Boswell.

“It really kind of caught me off guard, actually,” said Gibson, who now has 1,002 1/3 career innings. “I’ve got a lot to be thankful for. It’s been a really fun organization to get those innings with. This is a fun group to get it with as well. It means a lot. The fact that the organization has had that type of confidence in me to keep me around, to keep giving me second chances and third chances when they didn’t have to, it means a lot.”