– Kyle Gibson feels stronger, his pitches are getting sharp, and he can’t think of much else to accomplish before the season opener. Well, maybe one thing.

“As soon as I can get rid of these walks, putting hitters on base for free, I’ll be pretty excited for it,” Gibson said.

Gibson walked two batters in 4⅓ innings Monday, giving him a team-high eight on the spring. One of them extended the Pirates’ third inning, which resulted in an unearned run and eventually a 2-0 loss to the Pirates at Hammond Stadium.

Pittsburgh righthander Juan Nicasio extended his streak of scoreless innings to 15 this spring, shutting out the Twins for five innings despite three times allowing runners to reach scoring position with less than two outs. Each time, Nicasio overpowered hitters to keep the shutout intact, once by striking out three straight hitters, once by striking out two, and once by inducing Eduardo Nunez into an inning-ending double play. Nicasio struck out eight, while giving up five hits and two walks.

“We had a few chances over there with less than two outs, a couple innings, and couldn’t get them in,” manager Paul Molitor said. “Those usually come back and haunt you during the season, too.”

Gibson was effective, but a defensive letdown proved costly. With two outs in the third inning and two runners on base, Nunez fielded a hard grounder at third base while backpedaling. His throw to second base for a forceout sailed over Brian Dozier’s head, allowing Chris Stewart to score.

Trevor May surrendered three hits in the ninth, the last a bases-loaded infield grounder by Jacob Stallings that Nunez, playing shortstop, couldn’t reach in time.