Not a week into Kyle Gibson’s career, and already he pitches like a veteran, like he’s been a Minnesota Twin for years.
In other words: He can’t beat the Yankees, either.
The rookie’s second major league game was as chaotic and glum as his debut was orderly and encouraging, but the righthander insisted after the Twins’ 9-5 loss that his pitches felt just as good as they had against Kansas City last weekend. This time, those 95-mph fastballs and dive-to-the-dirt sinkers were getting rocketed all over Target Field, rather than popped up or pounded into the ground as the Royals had done.
“I had the stuff I had the last time out there, maybe even better, honestly,” Gibson said. “My changeup and slider felt really good. ... I felt like I had the stuff to go deep into the game.”
Rookies, huh? He’ll learn. As Minnesotans discovered long ago, when the Yankees are involved, resistance is futile.
“Even though it’s not the team you’re used to seeing over there, they’ve still got some guys from other organizations that know how to play the game,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said after his career record against the Yankees, regular season and post, fell to 23-71. “They go out and get it done.”
Heck, with the four-game sweep this week, they’ve already clinched the season series for a seventh straight year before they play a single game in Yankee Stadium — where the Twins haven’t won a series since 2001.
New York seemed in a hurry to get the holiday festivities over with Thursday, jumping on a series of pitches that Gibson left too high for three quick first-inning runs. Two more in the third made it 5-0, and considering the Twins had scored only nine runs in the first three games of the series, the only intrigue left was whether Mariano Rivera would make an encore appearance in his final Target Field game.
“I was leaving pitches up in the zone, and that’s what happens,” Gibson said after surrendering eight runs on 11 hits, inflating his ERA to 7.94 in two starts. “A lot of guys can hit offspeed pitches when they’re left up in the zone.”
Especially Yankees. With no Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez, this time it meant that Ichiro Suzuki would be the culprit, and he finished a home run shy of his first career cycle; his two-run triple off reliever Brian Duensing brought Gibson’s final two runs home. Travis Hafner, too — he had three hits, including two doubles. And Vernon Wells drove in three runs with a single and double.
Gibson actually made an adjustment — all it took was better focus on his location, he said — and he retired six of seven hitters through the fifth inning, thinking he was clear of the Yankee curse.
“After the fifth inning, I thought I’m going to go seven [innings]. Even though it’s not going to be a quality start, I’m going to give the team a chance to battle back,” said Gibson, who is scheduled to face the Yankees again July 14, the final game before the All-Star break. “I really settled down — my sinker was better, my command was better, and I was executing pitches like I wanted to the whole game. Then a couple of hits happened in the sixth, and you know the rest of the story.”
Um, yeah. Like reruns of “Seinfeld,” we’ve seen it a few dozen times.
The gloom of a four-game sweep, of a five-game losing streak, of a 2-6 homestand with a 10-game AL East road trip dead ahead smothered a couple of heartening trends — the resurgence of Justin Morneau, who homered twice, and Jared Burton, who retired all three hitters he faced.
“Hopefully [the homers] are a sign of good things to come,” Morneau said.
Maybe. But probably not in New York.