MINNEAPOLIS — It wasn’t the smoothest ride, but the Twins beat the Royals on Thursday night, as they were expected to. Miguel Sanó and Mitch Garver homered while Nelson Cruz went deep twice to help Minnesota fight back from two deficits in an 8-5 victory at Target Field.
The win kept the Twins four games ahead of the second-place Indians in the American League Central race and reduced their magic number to clinch the division title to six.
That was all, more or less, business as usual.
But the win over the Royals was dampened by the roughest outing yet from franchise mainstay and impending free agent Kyle Gibson in what might have been his final regular season start as a Twin at Target Field. And more concerning for the immediate future, Gibson is running out of time to show that he can be counted on in the starting rotation come October.
As manager Rocco Baldelli walked up the stairs of the first-base dugout to make the pitching change in the second inning, the normally mild-mannered Gibson strode off the back of the mound and later yelled into his glove in frustration before he walked off the field that he has called home for seven seasons.
The signs had been promising in a clean first inning during which Gibson’s fastball again sat at 94-95 mph and only one batter reached base — on a catcher’s interference. But things spiraled in the second, when Gibson issued an uncharacteristic four walks — including two with the bases loaded — and he also allowed three singles in a three-run frame.
Throughout the season, Baldelli has often elected to keep his bullpen rested by letting his starters wear some damage. Thursday was not one of those days, as Zack Littell immediately got hot in the bullpen and entered the series opener after only five outs and 52 pitches recorded by Gibson.
This outing came four days after Gibson allowed a go-ahead, three-run homer to Indians catcher Roberto Pérez while pitching in relief for the second time in his career. In his previous start, Gibson had allowed six runs — five earned — in 4 2/3 innings in his return from a stint on the 10-day injured list.
All told, Gibson now has a 7.14 ERA since the start of August and he hasn’t allowed fewer than three runs in a start since July 28.