Gibson looks to take home success on the road

Kyle Gibson is 4-1 with a 1.54 ERA at Target Field this season but 1-4 with a 7.39 ERA on the road.

Jesse Johnson/Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Twins have, surprisingly enough, posted a better record on the road so far than this season than they have at Target Field. After Wednesday’s win in Toronto, the Twins are now 16-16 on the road and 15-17 home.

For Kyle Gibson, the opposite has been true.

After beating the Houston Astros on Saturday in Minneapolis, the Twins 26-year-old right-hander improved to 4-1 with an impressive 1.54 ERA in six starts at Target Field. When Gibson pitches on the road, though, the results have been significantly different: a 1-4 record and a bloated 7.39 ERA in six starts away from home.

When Gibson takes the mound Friday to open a three-game series against the Tigers in Detroit, he hopes to reverse a trend that he can’t seem to explain.

"I don’t know what it is. I’m just comfortable throwing (at home)," Gibson said after his latest start at Target Field. "I’m definitely comfortable on the road as well. I don’t think the numbers are getting in my head. I’m still making pitches on the road, maybe just not as many in big situations like I do at home."

Those home vs. road splits are quite drastic this year for Gibson, who is in his second season in the majors. Aside from the win-loss record and ERA, other discrepancies can be found when looking at Gibson’s performance at home and his starts on the road. He’s allowed just four home runs all year, and all four of them have come in road games. One of those came at Comerica Park in Detroit during his shortest outing of the year. Gibson lasted just two innings after allowing six runs on seven Tigers hits.

In that loss, the starting opposing Gibson was Detroit’s Max Scherzer who, like Gibson, attended the University of Missouri. When Gibson beat the Astros last weekend, he moved ahead of Scherzer for the lowest home ERA of any starter, a title he still holds entering Friday’s start.

"Any time I can have something over a Tiger, I’d love to have it," Gibson said when told of that fact.

The Twins will miss Scherzer this weekend in Detroit, which is a good thing for Minnesota considering his ERA this year at Comerica Park is 2.16 after allowing four runs on Saturday against Boston.

Plenty of other differences stand out in Gibson’s road and home splits. He’s pitched just 28 innings in six road starts — lasting an average of just 4 2/3 innings per outing. At home, though, he’s tossed 41 innings in six starts at Target Field, or an average of nearly seven innings per game. Those numbers make sense when looking at how hard Gibson has been hit on the road.

Capsules of 2014 Twins draft picks

Opponents are batting just .213 against Gibson at Target Field and slugging .245 compared to a .292 average and .478 slugging percentage on the road. He’s also struck out more batters per walk (1.69) at home than he has on the road (1.30).

Seemingly any way you slice it, Gibson’s starts have been night and day depending on if he’s pitching at Target Field or at an opposing team’s ballpark. Now 12 starts into the 2014 season, Gibson is having a hard time explaining the vast difference.

When Gibson came up to the majors for the first time last year, the trend was actually reversed. For whatever reason, he fared better in five starts on the road (1-2, 5.20 ERA, .238 opponent batting average) than he did in five games he started in Minnesota (1-2, 8.10 ERA, .415 average). He’s since settled into his home confines of spacious Target Field is now having trouble putting things together on the road.

The Twins believe Gibson will be a key piece of their rotation in the future, and he’s been one of Minnesota’s better starters this year. If he can finally figure out how to handle his road demons, Gibson’s development at the major league level will take an even bigger step forward.

"I’m definitely comfortable (at home), no doubt about it," Gibson said. "Maybe the ball bounces my way a little bit here more. I’m going to try to right the ship on the road in Detroit (on Friday) and see if I can get those guys back."

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