Mitch Garver had to pause at the beginning of his on-field interview to wait for the roaring crowd to calm down enough for him to hear what he was saying.
“That was so cool,” Garver said. “I can’t imagine.”
A packed Target Field was still on edge, because of Garver. The catcher’s two-run homer to center field in the eighth inning had happened just moments earlier, lifting the Twins to a 2-0 victory over the Kansas City Royals.
After watching the ball clear the outfield wall, Garver pumped his fist and yelled as he rounded the bases. That wasn’t enough for an announced sellout crowd of 38,898, as they cheered long enough for him to step out of the dugout for a curtain call.
“By far the coolest thing I’ve ever done on a baseball field, by far,” said Garver, who has hit 11 home runs in 33 games this season. “I’ve never had a curtain call. I’ve always dreamed. I’ve watched Joe [Mauer] do them. I’ve watched Rosie [Eddie Rosario] do them. Like, ‘Man, I want to get one of those one day.’ ”
That day was Friday, as the Twins emerged from the heat of a pitcher’s duel between Kyle Gibson (7-3) and Kansas City’s Brad Keller to win for the sixth time in eight games and move to a season-high 24 games over .500.
Keller offered an interesting challenge for the Twins. Yes, he entered the game 3-8 with a 4.29 ERA. But he had given up only four home runs over 86 innings pitched — and just had a 42-inning homerless streak end last Saturday against the White Sox.
Throwing a heavy fastball that opponents struggle to elevate out of the park, Keller held the Twins to three hits and three walks over seven innings.
Gibson, however, shut out the Royals for eight innings. He faced the minimum through five, then retired 13 of the last 14 batters he faced on only 88 pitches.
The Twins just needed a big hit. They got their chance in the eighth with Keller out and lefthander Jake Diekman (0-4) in.
Max Kepler drew a one-out walk. After Jorge Polanco flied out, Garver batted. He got a 2-1 fastball on the outer half of the plate and was able to stick to his plan.
“Right before that pitch, I got into my own head,” Garver said. “I was like, ‘I’m going to hit a home run here.’ I wanted to try and pull it. I was like, ‘No, no, no.’ I stepped out, grabbed a piece of dirt and was like, ‘I need to reset.’ I was like, ‘Alright, I’m going to go right-center gap. I’m going to cheat to the fastball. I’m going to catch it out front.’ All these things going through my head.”
He pounded the pitch over the center-field wall, just to the right of the bullpens, as fans erupted.
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli then went down to end of dugout to tell Gibson that he was going to go with Taylor Rogers in the ninth. Gibson offered to start and pitch until a batter reached base. But Baldelli wanted the lefthanded Rogers to start with a clean inning. So Rogers — pitching for the first time since June 6 because of a sore back — came in and pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his seventh save.
Gibson was fine with decision. His final act as the starter on Friday was cheering for Garver’s blast to clear the fence.
“We had four guys who had made the call before the at-bat that he was going to hit a homer so, yes, as soon as it was off the bat, I was up yelling for it to keep going,” Gibson said. “So yeah, that was a pretty exciting moment and the fans got loud. Even Kepler afterwards said, ‘Man, this place gets loud, huh?’ I was like ‘Yeah.’ ”