They may have entered Saturday's game a combined 42 games out of first place, but the Twins and Astros sure played an entertaining game on Saturday. Here are a few leftovers from Minnesota's 6-4 win:
-- Kyle Gibson couldn't throw strike one tonight. He faced 19 batters, threw a first-pitch ball to 12 of them, and two more hit the first pitch. The frustrating part for the Twins' rookie is he knows what he's doing wrong, and still can't stop it. "I start gripping the ball tighter, I try to hit the perfect spot," Gibson said. "I'm just trying to do too much with every pitch, instead of just letting it go."
He threw 81 pitches in just three innings, which is what happens when you go to three-ball counts on six different hitters. And he gave up a home run to Brett Wallace, another alarming sign. After not allowing a home run in his first 24 big-league innings, he's surrendered five in his last 14 innings. His ERA is back up to 6.69. "We'll take a step back, get him ready for his next start and hopefully we can work from there," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "You can't step into the big leagues and dominate. Not too many people do that."
Gardenhire and general manager Terry Ryan both said before the game that shutting down Gibson, who has thrown 129 innings in Rochester and Minnesota this year as he comes back from elbow reconstruction surgery, has not yet been discussed, "but we're keeping an eye on his innings," according to Ryan. The Twins don't plan to end his season early, Ryan said, but more likely skip a few starts over the final two months to limit his workload. I wonder if that might happen soon.
-- Pedro Florimon will be examined Sunday to see if his left wrist is still sore. The Twins don't think it's serious, but we'll see.
-- Yes, I wrote in Sunday's paper about how few the triples the Twins have hit this year. So naturally, the first Twin to walk up to the plate, Brian Dozier, hits a triple. And Oswaldo Arcia led off the second with another one. Just my luck. On Twitter, @snyde043 made me laugh by tweeting, "Thanks! Next you should write about how the starting pitchers don't strike anyone out."
Speaking of which, I all but predicted before the game that Gibson would become the first Twins starter to strike out more than seven hitters in a game this season, given that the Astros whiff more than anyone in history. Whoops. But I was half-right: Anthony Swarzak struck out five in three innings of work, the first Twins reliever to K that many this year.
-- Heads-up baserunning by Doug Bernier and Clete Thomas produced the first steal of home since 2002, when Torii Hunter turned the trick against Detroit. With Brian Dozier at the plate with two strikes, Bernier broke for second, intending to draw a throw and get himself in a rundown. "You don't want to run into an out in that situation. You've got two strikes on the hitter, so you're supposed to stop out there," Gardenhire explained. Houston starter Erik Bedard "was slide-stepping, so there's no way you're straight stealing. All he's got to do is get in a rundown and see what happens."
Second baseman Jose Altuve ran Bernier -- who had a terrific night in the field, too, and laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt -- back toward first, and Thomas broke for the plate. Altuve calculated that he or first baseman Wallace could tag Bernier and end the inning before Thomas reached home. But Wallace got confused, got out of the way, and Altuve couldn't tag Bernier before he got back to first base. He stood there with the ball while Thomas slid home.
"It's kind of a guess, for the most part," Thomas said of his instinct to run. "You try to time it when they're going to release [the throw] for the rundown, but for the most part, it's just anticipation."
-- Amazing crowd tonight at Target Field, a sellout of 38,078. Even more remarkable was that 4,582 were walk-ups, the most in the stadium's four-year history. It was a gorgeous night, and the Twins were giving away free caps, but that's still an amazing number considering these are two teams far out of any pennant race.
"The fans, just fantastic," Gardenhire marveled. "They're packing the place, keeping us motivated."