Gibson gives the Twins a chance in loss to Yankees
MINNEAPOLIS -- Kyle Gibson was in a groove. The Minnesota Twins had grabbed the lead against CC Sabathia.
One bad pitch by their best reliever was all the New York Yankees needed to pull away.
Didi Gregorius hit a tiebreaking three-run homer in the seventh inning, Sabathia had another strong start and the Yankees stopped a four-game losing streak with a 4-1 victory over the Twins on Thursday night.
Fernando Abad relieved Gibson (0-5) with one out in the seventh to face the left-handed Gregorius, after an infield single and a walk to start the inning. Abad, who had yet to allow a homer all season and took a 0.79 ERA into the game, threw a first-pitch fastball over the middle that Gregorius hit into the seats in right field. Lefties are batting just .125 (4 for 32) against Abad, who left the clubhouse without speaking to reporters.
"There's not too many guys I'd rather have come in that situation," Gibson said, adding: "He's been great. It's just one of those days for him."
Gregorius is 6 for 11 with seven RBI in his last three games. After batting .247 against left-handers in his first season with the Yankees, the replacement at shortstop for Derek Jeter, Gregorius is hitting a team-high .368 (21 for 57) against lefties this year.
"We just wanted to get a chance to bring him in there to face that particular part of the lineup," manager Paul Molitor said. "You're hoping for a strikeout, or even a walk wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. But he tried to get ahead, and (Gregorius) was ready."
Sabathia (5-4) needed 116 pitches to complete six innings, but he struck out seven and retired the last five batters he faced. Aroldis Chapman pitched the ninth for his 12th save in 13 attempts.
Former Yankees shortstop Eduardo Nunez's two-out RBI single in the fourth gave the Twins the lead, ending the scoreless streak for Sabathia at 15 straight innings. But the burly 35-year-old struck out Robbie Grossman to strand two of the nine runners the Twins left on base against him.
The right-hander's renaissance has been remarkable this season, despite the down year for the Yanks.
Sabathia hasn't given up more than three runs in any of his 11 turns. Nor has he surrendered more than two runs in any appearance since April. Over the previous three seasons, spanning 69 starts, Sabathia had a 4.81 ERA.
He took the mound at the perfect time for the Yankees, who last week moved above the .500 mark for the first time since they were 4-3, only to drop four straight decisions, including two in Colorado on Tuesday and Wednesday. They've begun a two-week stretch during which they play only the Twins and Rockies, 11 times total with three days off.
Gibson faced the minimum 15 batters through five innings, but the first four Yankees reached to start the sixth, with Jacoby Ellsbury's RBI single tying the game. Carlos Beltran grounded into a double play to end that inning, but more trouble loomed for Gibson in the seventh.
This was only the second time in six starts this season that Gibson, who missed nearly two months with a shoulder problem, pitched into the seventh.
"I felt more like myself a little bit. More like last year and 2014 when I was throwing a little bit better," Gibson said. "Hopefully I can keep it going."
Nunez, who came up in the Yankees system and played parts of four seasons with them before being traded to the Twins in 2014, left plenty of admirers with his original team despite never becoming more than a part-timer. Nunez has flourished this year, entering the game sixth in the league in batting average and third in steals.
"There wasn't always a lot of playing time for him, and it's tough for young kids when you don't always get that consistency," manager Joe Girardi said.
The Twins returned OF/IF Danny Santana (strained left hamstring) from his rehab assignment after the game to be taken off the DL, and OF Oswaldo Arcia was designated for assignment to make room.
Yankees RHP Masahiro Tanaka (3-2, 3.08 ERA) will take the mound Friday, having allowed two earned runs or fewer in 10 of 13 starts, against Twins rookie RHP Pat Dean (1-2, 4.17 ERA) in the second game of the four-game series.