Gibson bounces back, but to no avail

Minnesota's Kyle Gibson earned a no-decision in Wednesday's loss, going six scoreless innings while scattering six hits.

Jim Mone

MINNEAPOLIS — Kyle Gibson has fallen into a pattern.

Every time the Twins right-hander has a rough outing, he’s followed it up with a bounceback effort. That scenario was true again on Wednesday against the Texas Rangers.

Fortunately for Minnesota, Wednesday’s start was one of Gibson’s bounceback outings after he allowed five runs in San Francisco over the weekend. Unfortunately for Gibson, the Twins’ offense did him no favors as Minnesota fell 1-0 to Joe Saunders and the Rangers.

Gibson earned a no-decision in Wednesday’s loss, going six scoreless innings while scattering six hits. He didn’t walk a batter for the second straight game, and his four strikeouts matched a season high. But as the Twins’ bats went silent, Gibson’s quality start was wasted.

"We’ve got a good hitting team. We scored a lot of runs there in April and we’ve been scoring runs," Gibson said. "I think we’ve had a couple games where we’ve struggled, but it doesn’t really put any pressure on you as a pitcher."

Over Gibson’s last six starts, the pattern of a bad outing followed by a good one has indeed been the theme. It began when Gibson allowed five runs on nine hits and three walks in a loss against the Dodgers on April 30. His next time out, Gibson allowed just two hits in seven scoreless innings as he earned a no-decision in Cleveland.

Five days later, he was rocked for his shortest start of the year as he lasted a mere two innings after the Tigers jumped on him for six runs. But once again, Gibson responded the next time he took the mound by holding Seattle to one run in seven innings. Gibson said Wednesday that he felt he had good command during his start in San Francisco over the weekend, but it resulted in five runs in five innings in a losing effort.

Back at Target Field, where he’s pitched well all season — going 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA entering Wednesday’s game — Gibson was once again solid. He worked his way out of a few jams in the first four innings. After a two-out single by Michael Choice in the second inning, Leonys Martin followed with a double to left to send Choice to third. Gibson squelched the potential threat by fanning Robinson Chirinos to end the second, Gibson’s third strikeout of the game through the first two innings.

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In the fourth, Alex Rios reached third base after a two-out single, a stolen base and a throwing error on Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki. Once again, though, Gibson made a pitch to get out of the inning unscathed when Choice grounded to third for the final out to keep the game scoreless.

"It’s all about making the pitches when you have to," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. "Tonight, he was making pitches consistently. They did get a couple guys on base. He made great pitches to get out of those things, and that’s what baseball’s all about."

Gibson once again escaped trouble in the sixth when he allowed back-to-back two-out singles to Mitch Moreland and Adrian Beltre. With two on and two out, Gibson induced an inning-ending groundout by Rios to get through six innings without surrendering a run.

After leaving the game with a season-high 107 pitches, Gibson had given the Twins the start they needed from him. Gibson lowered his ERA at Target Field to 1.85 in his five starts at Minnesota’s home park. His season ERA, meanwhile, dropped to 4.18 through 10 starts — more than two full runs better than it was in the 10 starts he made last season (6.53).

"A good hard sinker, good hard slider. His changeup’s pretty doggone good, too," Gardenhire said. "He had a great angle going. That’s a pretty good bunch of guys over there that can swing the bat. They’ve got some veterans that can really hit. He did a really nice job of it. He gave us everything he had."

The Rangers scored their lone run in the top of the seventh against Twins reliever JareD Burton. Luis Sardinas’ single to left scored Leonys Martin from second to put Texas up 1-0. That was enough against Minnesota on Wednesday as the Twins had just six hits and left nine men on base.

The outing from Gibson, though, was an encouraging sign for Minnesota as he put together yet another quality start. Now it’s a matter of the 26-year-old right-hander stringing a few outings like this one together in a row.

"I just want to try to keep doing what I’m doing, being aggressive in the zone," Gibson said. "One thing I can do a little bit better is getting ahead of guys. Tonight I really didn’t do that too well and found myself in some three-ball counts. There’s definitely things to build on, even though I did have a good outing tonight. You’re never as good as you can be. You can always improve."

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