SEATTLE – The Twins headed home Sunday following their first winning multicity road trip of the season, quite an achievement for a team that was plummeting before the All-Star break while breaking in a few young players.
But they finished up the 4-3 trip dealing with growing pains from a member of that inexperienced group during a 6-4 loss to the Mariners at Safeco Field.
There were a few pivotal plays during the game, but it was rookie righthander Kyle Gibson’s inability to harness his lively pitches that put them in an insurmountable position. Michael Saunders and Nick Franklin hit home runs on Gibson’s watch. Franklin ended up with two home runs in the game, the other coming off Anthony Swarzak.
Gibson, who dropped to 2-3 with a 6.21 ERA, didn’t try to put any spin on his outing. He failed, and he knew it.
“I’m not making the pitch I want to make and throwing them what they want to hit,” he said. “Until I start getting ahead [in the count] it’s going to be a struggle every inning, every batter.”
It looked like it. Gibson threw 95 pitches over five innings before being replaced by Swarzak. He fell behind 2-0 to eight batters — two in each of his first four innings. He is not giving himself a chance to win when that happens.
Gibson’s pitches were alive on Sunday. His sinking fastball hit 93 miles per hour on the radar gun while breaking down and away from lefthanded hitters. He said his slider was one of the best he has had all season. But he struggled to hit spots with them.
Gibson made an adjustment after the first inning, telling catcher Chris Herrmann to set up down the middle of the plate instead of the corners. He aimed for the glove and tried to let the movement take over. No dice.
“It was one of those days where it was tough and a battle out there,” Gibson said.
The Twins gave him a 2-0 lead in the second inning on a two-run homer by Chris Colabello. Seattle got a run back in the third on a sacrifice fly by Kyle Seager. In the fourth, Gibson fell behind 2-0 and 3-1 to Saunders, who planted a belt-high fastball well up into the right field stands to tie the game, before Franklin added a three-run shot to give Seattle a 5-2 lead.
There were some game- changing moments. Colabello had a bid for a second homer thwarted in the third by Seattle right fielder Endy Chavez, who jumped at the wall to rob the Twins rookie of a three-run shot. And, before Franklin’s first home run, the Twins could have ended the fourth inning with a double play on a ground ball by 41-year-old catcher Henry Blanco, but second baseman Brian Dozier’s throw pulled Colabello off the bag at first.
“That’s on me,” Dozier said. “The ball was slipping out of my hand. I should have taken another step [and get a better grip] with Blanco running.”
Gibson walked Brad Miller, then gave up the three-run homer.
Gibson settled down and threw a 1-2-3 fifth inning before being replaced by Swarzak. He threw first pitch strikes to each batter he faced. That’s what he needs to get used to doing.
“I thought I had good stuff,” Gibson said. “I still think my sinker is there and when I get the location there it’s going to be a whole lot better. The offense did a good job of giving me a lead against a team that takes a lot [of pitches]. That should work in my favor.’’