Finally, the Twins could smile in their own clubhouse following a game.
Behind a solid outing from righthander Kyle Gibson — who has been the best starting pitcher so far — and an excellent day at the plate, the Twins beat Kansas City 10-1 on Friday night for their first home victory in four tries. It ended a nine-game losing streak at Target Field dating to last season.
The boos from the fans in recent days turned to cheers. Especially in the seventh inning, when Terry Steinbach went to the mound to replace Gibson, whose 100th pitch of the game had just struck out Alcides Escobar for the first out of the inning. Most of the announced crowd of 24,338 rose to their feet to cheer Gibson for his effort. He is the first Twins starter to win two games this young season.
Check that. He’s the only Twins starter to win even one game this season.
Steinbach — filling in for manager Ron Gardenhire, in Ohio for a funeral — will have many good things to say when he checks in Saturday morning. Heck, Gardenhire might return to his office and discover that some people have dug into his brand new humidor for a victory cigar or two.
“He better,” Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson said, kiddingly, of Steinbach. “Gibby should too. We finally had a starter get us deep.”
The Twins rotation has mostly been in shambles during the season’s opening weeks, except for one determined righthander.
Gibson forced his way on the Opening Day roster by fighting off three competitors who all were out of minor league options. By keeping the ball down, pitching inside effectively and being the ground-ball inducer he can be, Gibson excelled Friday.
He walked a batter, threw a wild pitch and threw 28 pitches in the first inning. Then he gave up a leadoff double to Mike Moustakas in the second. But Moustakas went no further, and Gibson settled down, retiring 11 of 12 batters over one stretch. That stretch included a run in which he got six of seven outs on ground balls.
Gibson used all his pitches, worked both sides of the plate and wasn’t afraid to go inside and back a couple of hitters off. But it was his sinker that Royals hitters continuously failed to square up. In 6⅓ innings, Gibson gave up one run on five hits with four walks and three strikeouts.
“Kansas City is a good-hitting team, and one thing they do is that they don’t let you live on one side of the plate,” Gibson said. “Moving the fastball in and out and all the lefties and on the righties was one thing that really helped.”
The Twins took a 2-1 lead in the first when Chris Colabello drove in Trevor Plouffe with a single and Jason Kubel cranked an RBI triple on a drive that Royals right fielder Norichika Aoki nearly caught but bobbled off the wall.
They broke the game open with five runs in the fifth. Josmil Pinto hit a solo home run before Joe Mauer added his first RBI of the season on an two-out single. Colabello then added a two-run double, and his three RBI Friday give him 14 in 10 games. The Twins were 5-for-14 with runners in scoring position, and six of their 10 runs came with two outs.
“The offense came through,” Steinbach said. “The thing that comes to my mind was the two-out hits that we got. We capitalized in hitting with runners in scoring position and two outs. It kind of broke the game open for us.”