Twins rookie Kyle Gibson can’t solve the Yankees’ lineup

MINNEAPOLIS — Kyle Gibson’s much-anticipated major league debut lived up to the hype as the former first-round pick earned a win against Kansas City. His second start was a different story.

On Thursday, Gibson had a rude awakening against the New York Yankees. In just his second career big league start, the rookie right-hander had perhaps the worst outing of his professional career. He allowed eight runs on 11 hits in Thursday’s 9-5 loss as the Yankees completed the four-game sweep.

“They were hitting some rockets off of him,” manager Ron Gardenhire said of Gibson. “He just ran into a little bit of a buzzsaw there. We ended up trying to get him out of there and it didn’t work out.

Gibson lasted just 5 1/3 innings. The 11 hits he allowed tied the most he’s given up this season; he did so once with Triple-A Rochester earlier this year. The eight earned runs, meanwhile, are the most he’s allowed in any professional game since he was drafted 22nd overall in 2009.

Trouble started early for Gibson on Thursday. He allowed a leadoff double to center fielder Ichiro Suzuki, who advanced to third on a single to right by No. 2 batter Zoilo Almonte. The first out of the game for Gibson also yielded a Yankees run as Robinson Cano’s sacrifice fly scored Suzuki.

Two batters later, Vernon Wells’ single to left drove in both Almonte and designated hitter Travis Hafner. Just like that, Gibson found himself trailing 3-0 and had only recorded one out in the game.

“Coming into this whole experience, I knew that if I didn’t locate my pitches I was going to get hurt,” Gibson said. “In the first and third inning mainly, I left some balls up. A lot of these guys can hit those fastball and off-speed pitches that are left up in the zone.”

After allowing two more runs in the top of the third, things fell apart for Gibson in the sixth. He walked the leadoff batter and followed it by serving up a double to Luis Cruz. Alberto Gonzalez singled to right and Austin Romine grounded into a fielder’s choice as the Twins threw out Cruz at home plate.

Gibson exited the game with runners on first and second and just one out. Both of those runners came around to score on Suzuki’s triple to the gap in right-center, which closed the books on Gibson’s line. He finished the day allowing eight runs on 11 hits with a walk, a hit batter and two strikeouts.

It’s hard to take too much from Gibson’s first week in the majors after two very contrasting starts, but the 25-year-old right-hander remained confident after Thursday’s outing.

“It’s been a joy, there’s no doubt,” Gibson said. “I’m not going to go back and say this hasn’t been a dream come true. Giving up eight runs is not fun, no doubt about it, but I’m still thankful for the opportunity. Every day there’s guys that lose their job here in this game. Hopefully in five days I’ll get another chance and go out there and throw better.”

Twins’ woes continue vs. Yankees: Over the past decade, the New York Yankees have had the Minnesota Twins’ number. But the Yankees team that rolled into Minneapolis this week lacked the clout of some of those previous New York rosters.

Still, without the likes of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, the Yankees left Minnesota with a four-game sweep of the Twins. With four more losses to New York, the Twins are now 23-71 against the Yankees since Gardenhire took over as the manager in 2002.

“I wish we all had answers for all that stuff,” Gardenhire said about his team’s lopsided record against the Yankees. “We don’t have answers for why these guys play so well here. … They’ve got great players. They’ve always had great players over there since I became manager here. Great players do good things. Even when they’re hurt, they still know how to win.”

Second baseman Robinson Cano was a Twin killer all weekend, but he and center fielder Ichiro Suzuki are likely two of the few stars that casual fans will recognize in this Yankees lineup that has been depleted by injuries to some of New York’s biggest names. Still, players like Luis Cruz and Alberto Gonzalez did damage against Minnesota this weekend.

The Twins aren’t the only American League Central team that the Yankees have beaten up on, however. Including Thursday’s win, New York is 14-4 against Central teams this year, including 14 of their last 15.

“They outplayed us this whole series,” Gardenhire said. “We didn’t do too much right.”

Morneau’s power surge: It was a bit ironic that a Canadian was providing the fireworks on the Fourth of July, but that’s what Twins first baseman Justin Morneau did Thursday.

Morneau hit a pair of home runs in Thursday’s loss to New York, setting off the fireworks in center field with each blast. The first came in the bottom of the fourth inning when he took Yankees starter David Phelps deep to right field for the Twins’ first run of the game.

Trailing 9-4 in the eighth, Morneau sent another blast deep, this time to right-center field off New York reliever Boone Logan. It was the 19th career multi-homer game for Morneau, who now has six home runs this season and three during the Twins’ recent home stand.

“He was on the ball pretty good today,” Gardenhire said. “A couple mistakes by them and he whacked them pretty good.”

Morneau’s name has been floated around in trade rumors as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches. The biggest knock on Morneau this year, though, has been his lack of power. He endured the longest home run drought of his career earlier this season before breaking through on June 18. With two more on Thursday, he now has six homers and a team-high 50 RBI while batting .284.

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