Twins center fielder Aaron Hicks catches a fly ball in the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Target Field on Thursday afternoon. The temperature at first pitch was 31 degrees.
Jesse Johnson/Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Twins had the right formula for successfully playing through the cold: a guy named Kyle Gibson.
Unfazed by the subfreezing temperature at first pitch, Gibson pitched a career-high eight scoreless innings for the Twins in a 7-0 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday that opened a day-night doubleheader.
Gibson (3-0) took the mound for the coldest start for an outdoor game in Twins history, 31 degrees, and breezed through a Blue Jays lineup that totaled 20 runs in the previous two games. He walked one, struck out four and scattered four singles. All he was missing was the ninth.
He lobbied for 10 more pitches, but 105 were plenty for the Twins.
"This early in the season we’re not going to mess with that kid’s arm. But that was a great performance," manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Gibson had a rough rookie year in 2013, but the 2009 first-round amateur draft pick has been the early stalwart of the rotation that stumbled through the first two turns. He lowered his ERA to 0.93.
"Especially toward the end, I was thinking about going nine innings. I wasn’t thinking about the cold," said Gibson, recalling a couple of snow-covered games in college at Missouri. His parents traveled from Indiana to watch him play Thursday, and the 6-foot-6 right-hander was throwing first-pitch strike after first-pitch strike.
"I know there’s some Twins fans that don’t like the pitch to contact, but if my sinker’s sinking then I’m doing myself a disservice by throwing ball one," Gibson said.
Josmil Pinto highlighted a five-run fifth inning against R.A. Dickey (1-3) with a two-run double, missing a grand slam by a few inches. Trevor Plouffe also had two RBIs. But the story of the game was Gibson.
"His fastball was sneaky and jumping on you pretty good," Toronto manager John Gibbons said.
Gibson went 2-4 with a 5.63 ERA in 10 starts last season but has earned his spot back.
"He was confident, really confident, and he showed that from day one of spring training. It wasn’t like he was out there on a mission. He was just going his thing," Gardenhire said after the Twins beat the Blue Jays for just the fifth time in their last 22 meetings.
After wintry weather forced postponement of Wednesday’s game, workers scrambled all morning to melt snow and ice from the seating areas, and the grounds crew dried the warning track. The Twins even sent out a company-wide memo asking for help. Slush still sat along the edges of the plaza behind right field, and the highest seating level was closed off because it wasn’t cleared in time, giving those customers an unexpected upgrade.
The announced paid attendance was 20,507, but the actual number of people present was probably half of that at most. The previous lowest first-pitch temperature the Twins played in was 32 degrees on May 2, 1967, at Metropolitan Stadium. Their home was the covered, climate-controlled Metrodome from 1982-09.
Dickey’s knuckleball was moving all over the place. Needing 112 pitches to get 13 outs, Dickey didn’t finish the fifth inning when the Twins batted around. His ERA rose to 6.26, after he allowed seven hits, five walks and five runs while striking out four.
Jason Kubel, Kurt Suzuki and Chris Colabello also drove in runs for the Twins.
"They did a good job of laying off really good pitches. I thought I got squeezed a couple of pitches, but outside of that it was one of those days where you weren’t putting the whole game together," Dickey said, adding: "I’m traditionally a slow starter so hopefully I can get on track next time."
NOTES: The last Twins pitcher to win each of his first three starts as a member of the opening day rotation was Livan Hernandez in 2008. … Dickey is 1-3 with a 6.58 ERA in six career starts against the Twins. … The Twins recalled former Yankees SS Eduardo Nunez, acquired via trade last week, from Triple-A Rochester to play 3B for the second game as the 26th man. The Blue Jays added OF Anthony Gose from Triple-A Buffalo.