Boston – Kyle Gibson is only 14 starts into the season, and already his manager is running out of superlatives.
“I said last time it was the best [Gibson performance] I’ve ever seen, so I can’t keep topping it,” Ron Gardenhire said after the second-year righthander allowed only a harmless fifth-inning double in seven innings of shutout work in the Twins’ 2-1, 10-inning loss to the Red Sox on Wednesday. “It was as good as last time.”
That’s plenty good enough, since Gibson’s past three starts have been virtually identical: lots of ground balls, only a smattering of base hits and zero runs. Gibson hasn’t been scored upon since June 2, racking up 22 consecutive shutout innings over his past three starts. Only two other starting pitchers in Twins history have had a longer streak of zeros: Johan Santana, 33 straight innings in 2004, and Francisco Liriano, 23 in a row in 2010.
“He was great — hard sinker, slider, his changeup was great,” Gardenhire said. “He pounded the strike zone and kept them off-balance all day. It was a great performance.”
It was perfect, for a while. Gibson retired the first 14 hitters he faced, and eclipsed his career-high of five strikeouts along the way (he finished with eight). Then Daniel Nava “ambushed me,” Gibson said, driving a ground-rule double into the Red Sox bullpen.
“Right before that pitch, I was throwing a two-seamer, but as soon as I started my windup, I changed it to a four-seamer and it ran right into him. So maybe I’ll learn from that,” Gibson said.
That double made Nava one of only three batters to even get a ball out of the infield; Stephen Drew and David Ortiz hit routine fly balls. In addition to the strikeouts and one line drive, Gibson recorded 10 outs on ground balls, a good indication of how that sinker was sinking.
“What really helped me out was throwing my sinker in to lefties,” said Gibson, who didn’t walk a batter for only the fourth time all year. “They’ve got a lot of good lefties on that team that put the ball in play, [so I was] mixing it in and out, and my curveball was a good change of pace.”
Gibson has thrown 15 consecutive shutout innings on the road, where his ERA was above 7.00 until this streak.
“I was trying to make sure today was a good one,” he joked, “so I didn’t have to answer those same questions” about his road performance.
Instead, he answered the question Gardenhire couldn’t: Was that your best ever?
“I think so,” he said. “[It was] a combination of executing my pitches — about as good as I’ve felt and as good as I’ve executed.”