For whatever reason, Twins starter Kyle Gibson couldn’t carry the success he had at Target Field whenever he pitched on the road. Gibson’s road splits were worse in just about every category when stacked up with his numbers at home.
At least for one game, Gibson finally exorcised his road demons.
Minnesota’s right-hander threw seven scoreless innings Friday and only needed just the two runs his offense gave him as the Twins topped the Tigers 2-0 in the series opener at Comerica Park. It was just Gibson’s second road win of the year, and the first since his first start of the season.
"He was good. His ball was moving really nice," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Gibson. "He had them in the defensive mode. You could see them fighting off pitches. Heck of a job by him."
It’s not that Gibson hasn’t had any success on the road this year; he pitched seven scoreless innings in a 1-0 win at Cleveland in early May. But the rest of his starts away from Target Field were less than ideal. He entered Friday’s start with a 7.39 ERA in six road starts, compared to just a 1.54 ERA in the same number of games at home. He had previously struggled in Detroit back on May 10 when he lasted just two innings — his shortest start of the year — and gave up six runs on seven hits.
His second go-around at Comerica Park went much smoother — although it wasn’t always easy. Gibson stranded a runner on second with one out in the bottom of the fourth, preserving the Twins’ early 1-0 lead. The following inning was even dicier for Gibson, but he once again escaped trouble and posted another zero in the run column.
Gibson gave up a leadoff single to Alex Avila and then couldn’t field a bunt attempt by Andrew Romine that came back toward the pitcher’s mound. That put two Tigers runners on base with nobody out in the fifth as Detroit looked poised to score.
Ian Kinsler’s sacrifice bunt moved Avila and Romine to third and second base, respectively, but the Tigers still had just one out in the inning. Gibson then walked Austin Jackson to load the bases ahead of the feared Miguel Cabrera. Yet just two pitches later, Gibson induced his 10th double play of the season — and easily the most important — when he got Cabrera to roll over a fastball and hit into an inning-ending double play.
"That’s living dangerous when you load the bases up with Cabrera," Gardenhire said. "He hit that ball right on the screws, just right at us. Those aren’t the ways you want to go about your business, loading them up for that guy, but he made a pitch."
Added Gibson: "It was a big pitch. It’s one of those situations where if you want to win the game and you want to have a good outing, then you have to make that pitch against probably one of the best hitters in the game."
Gibson had to wriggle his way out of one more jam in the seventh as his pitch count rose over 100 pitches. He allowed a one-out double to Avila, but then used his sinker to get two groundball outs to get through seven scoreless innings. That was the end of Gibson’s night as he exited with a 1-0 lead. In his seven scoreless innings, Gibson scattered five hits, walked two and struck out three Tigers batters.
After an inconsistent start to the 2014 season, Gibson has seemingly figured things out over the last few weeks. He has a 1.38 ERA over his last four starts and didn’t allow a run in three of those four starts, including Friday’s outing. And that 7.39 road ERA? Gibson trimmed that by nearly a run and a half to 5.91 with seven scoreless innings in Detroit and dropped his season ERA to 3.55 while improving to 6-5.
Gibson has been rock solid at Target Field. The Twins hope he can continue to put together road starts like the one he did Friday.
"Just to win anywhere, home, road, it doesn’t matter to us," Gardenhire said. "The kid’s throwing the ball well. . . . He’s going to be a part of our staff. We’ve said that from spring training. I know he hadn’t had much luck on the road, but if he keeps throwing like that, he’ll do just fine no matter where he pitches."
FOX Sports North’s Jamie Hersch contributed to this report.