Andrew Albers walked into the Twins' clubhouse at 3:15, pulling an equipment bag and a huge suitcase. It wasn't long ago, just six weeks, that Kyle Gibson made a similar arrival at his new home.
Albers' debut will come Tuesday in Kansas City, but he'll get a chance to watch Gibson, his teammate at two different minor-league levels, face the Astros tonight. Gibson's experience in the majors has been a little bumpy, and he'll try to rebound today from a five-runs-in-five-innings start in Seattle last Sunday. The righthander had made steady improvement in July until that hiccup against the Mariners, and now he gets to face the second-lowest scoring team in the American League, a team that has scored more than three runs just once this week.
Gibson also has a reasonable chance to change an odd pattern for the Twins: Their starting pitchers' inability to strike hitters out. No Twins pitcher has recorded more than seven strikeouts in a game all season, and Gibson's high game in six career starts is only five whiffs. But the Astros strike out more than any other team in the majors, and it's not close; their 1014 Ks make them the only team with more than 1,000. Atlanta is second in the majors with 937.
So Gibson, who averaged 5.3 strikeouts at Rochester this year, has a reasonable shot at becoming the first Twin to strike out eight, especially when you consider this amazing statistic: The Astros have struck out eight or more times against the opposing starter in 42 games this year!
Joe Mauer caught all 13 innings of last night's victory, but he insisted he be behind the plate again tonight to catch Gibson, manager Ron Gardenhire said. He's trying to learn more about the rookie's pitch selection, his strengths and weaknesses. He'll bat second for a second straight game.
Justin Morneau is the DH, and I'm sure there was no keeping him out of the lineup. He owns a .379 lifetime average against Astros starter Erik Bedard, including two home runs.
UPDATE: Pedro Florimon "tweaked" his left wrist during batting practice, general manager Terry Ryan said, and he's been scratched. Doug Bernier will play short and bat ninth.
Here are tonight's lineups for the second game of the series: