ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- A couple of final thoughts from an empty (its normal state) Tropicana Dome:
--Is it possible to be encouraged and disappointed by the same performance? It sure was for the Twins on Tuesday, when Kyle Gibson lost his focus on the mound, and floundered like a rookie. He pitched too carefully to the leadoff hitter, and walked him. He got distracted by the baserunner, and walked the next batter. He started trying to guide the ball, and threw a wild pitch. And after getting two quick strikes on James Loney, rather than nailing down the strikeout that would have ended the inning without a run, he once again tried to make the perfect pitch rather than just let Loney retire himself on a strike.
When Matt Joyce and Kelly Johnson took advantage of Gibson's desperation by lashing two-run hits, the Twins were in a hole they couldn't escape.
But as discouraging as Gibson's rookie mistakes were in that fourth inning, letting a bad inning get much worse, they were encouraged by the way he responded. As Gibson said, "I just got tired of it," and he went back to attacking in the fifth, not overthinking every pitch. He retired seven of the last eight he faced, and once again reminded Twins fans -- and the Twins' manager -- why he is in the big leagues.
He came back out and made some pitches when he had to the next two innings, which was a good thing," Ron Gardenhire said. "He needed that. And we wanted to see that."
It sets up Gibson's final start before the All-Star break, on the final day before the All-Star break, in Yankee Stadium. That's where the Twins will find out how much Gibson has learned from his two weeks in the majors, and especially from the eight-run ugliness that the Yankees inflicted last weekend.
Gibson himself seemed upbeat, disappointed in himself but pleased with how he responded to the trouble. He seems more convinced than ever that he belongs.
-- The Twins' clubhouse is awfully quiet, as you might expect. Gardenhire's exhortations last weekend in Toronto to have more fun didn't seem to have been forgotten, but this long stretch without an off day -- Minnesota's last day off was June 24 -- is really dragging on. That they're 3-12 since that day of rest makes it harder to remain upbeat, of course.
Gardenhire said the team was into the game in the dugout, though. Watching from the press box, they seemed to believe they were going to stage a comeback in the ninth off Fernando Rodney, who allowed singles to Joe Mauer and Ryan Doumit to open the inning. But Justin Morneau, Trevor Plouffe, and Oswaldo Arcia all struck out, ending the game.
-- Gardenhire has a long history with home-plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt, including a couple of on-the-record outbursts that have earned the manager fines from Major League Baseball. But Gibson on Monday had nothing but compliments for one of the Twins' least-favorite umpires, saying Wendelstedt "called a great game tonight." No complaints about the three walks in the fourth inning, in other words.
-- Oswaldo Arcia appeared OK in the clubhouse after being hit in the face by a foul ball that he appeared to lose in the lights.