CLEVELAND – Corey Kluber is one of Paul Molitor’s favorite pitchers to watch — “as a fan of the game,” he clarified. On Friday, he got the rare treat of enjoying watching Kluber as the opposing manager.
The two-time Cy Young winner had not allowed more than three runs in a game since July, and hadn’t done it at home in 14 months. He hadn’t pitched fewer than six innings in a game this season. Heck, he hadn’t walked a batter in more than a month.
Until Friday. Eddie Rosario (of course) and Brian Dozier homered off the Indians’ ace, Kyle Gibson outpitched him, and the Twins, desperate to remain relevant in the AL Central, earned one of their most heartening victories of the season, 6-3 over the Indians at Progressive Field.
“He’s not really a guy anybody is too comfortable getting behind, or hitting with two strikes. A lot of our damage was aggressive at-bats — Rosie [on the] first pitch, and Doz the second pitch,” Molitor said. “We were trying to get after him a little bit. He left a couple pitches where we could handle them, and we were able to hit them hard.”
They did, and a dozen or so streaks came to an end, seemingly all to the Twins’ benefit. So routinely dominant has Kluber been this season, that when Cleveland manager Terry Francona lifted him after allowing an unthinkable four runs in five innings.
That’s as opposed to Gibson, who might not be in Kluber’s stratosphere as a pitcher, but has delivered plenty of effectiveness, albeit often unrewarded, this season. Gibson hadn’t been credited with a victory since March 31, despite a dozen mostly strong starts in the interim. “There’s no complaint around here about [how] Gibby’s been throwing the ball,” Molitor said. “We backed him up a little bit tonight, got to a tough pitcher. … Gibby was solid.”
Gibson allowed only three singles over seven innings, though four walks made his job mildly more difficult. But once the Twins staked him to a lead, he never appeared in danger of giving it back. Given that the Twins had done so in each of their last two games, that was a relief, so much so that Molitor joked about it.
When Rosario crushed a Kluber sinker more than 400 feet in the first inning, Molitor said, “I’m thinking, ‘Gibby, we got you a run.’ ” The Twins didn’t score after the first inning in Wednesday or Thursday’s losses, but this time, they did.
Rosario, the team’s hottest hitter for about a month now, had a hand in that, too. He led off the fourth inning with a hustle double, then watched as Eduardo Escobar drew the first walk that Kluber had issued since May 8.
The Indians then got only one out on Logan Morrison’s double-play grounder, bringing Dozier, the Twins’ coldest hitter — 0-for-20 since last Thursday — to the plate.
Dozier, dropped out of his customary leadoff spot to fifth in the order in response to the slump, blasted a Kluber cutter over the 19-foot-high wall in left-center.
“It was a big team win for us. We’re almost halfway thought the season, and we’re not where we want to be,” Gibson said. “We’ve got a little bit of urgency here. We’ve got a lot of goals we want to hit. … We’re not far off.”