Stories were told. Backs were slapped. Ovation after ovation rained upon them. The heroes of the 1987 World Series champion Twins were celebrated on Saturday. And fans took it all in, from never-seen-before movies recorded by Dan Gladden to Jeff Reardon’s first pitch.
Then the current Twins took the field wearing the same caps as the 1987 team, the ones with the “M” on the front.
And then Kyle Gibson began the game with a four-pitch walk of Ian Kinsler.
Fans grumbled. Some even booed. It was not the way to begin a game on a night of nostalgia.
But Gibson straightened up quickly and dominated the way a ground-ball pitcher can. And, despite some late drama, the Twins crafted a 6-5 victory over Detroit to top off a night of celebration in front of an announced crowd of 33,700 at Target Field.
“It was cool just seeing these guys,” Brian Dozier said of the 1987 team members who were on hand. “Even guys you heard of and never got a chance to meet.
“Then the way Gibby threw, cruising to a smooth win. Then your hearts are racing at the end.”
The Twins entered the eighth inning ahead 6-0, but Gibson gave up an RBI double to Alex Presley. Taylor Rogers and his 1.93 ERA replaced Gibson, but Justin Upton greeted the lefthander with a three-run homer off the left-field foul screen to pull Detroit within 6-4. Another run scored on Miguel Sano’s throwing error before closer Brandon Kintzler entered to get the final out of the eighth.
Detroit’s Jose Iglesias hit a sharp single over third base to lead off the ninth, but left fielder Eddie Rosario got a lively bounce off the wall and threw out Iglesias when he tried to stretch it into a double. Kintzler got the next two outs for his 27th save.
It ended up being un-1987 Twins-like, but it was a win.
“It’s amazing how it feels differently when you go out there in the ninth 6-5 when you’ve given up the last five as opposed to a normal game when you lead 6-5,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “You can feel it.”
Gibson had trouble finding the plate early, and said he felt he was fighting his control all night. It didn’t look that way. He retired 12 consecutive Detroit hitters and 16 of 17 at one point. Part of the reason was that he threw 13 consecutive first-pitch strikes from the second through six innings. And pitchers are much more effective when ahead in the count. Opponents have a 1.113 on-base-plus-slugging percentage against Gibson after a 1-0 count but .731 after 0-1.
In a season-high 7 ⅓ innings, Gibson gave up three runs on five hits and three walks with five strikeouts.
“Physically, I was trying to find it the whole game,” Gibson said. “It was in the third inning, I was talking to [catcher] Jason Castro and just didn’t feel too good. He did a good job of getting me through that one and called the right pitches at the right time.”
The Twins scored three runs in the third and two more in the fourth on their way to knocking out Tigers starter Jordan Zimmermann, who ran his pitch count to 86.
It was 6-0 in the eighth when Gibson began to falter. But it worked out because Kintzler earned a save of more than three outs for the third time this season.
“Big-league save for Kintz,” Molitor said. “That’s a tough one when momentum has changed like that.”