ATLANTA – Kyle Gibson can’t bunt. He was asked to move runners over time and time again Wednesday night, and he failed.
It ended up being quality entertainment for the Twins.
“I think guys were laughing at me because I was mad that I didn’t get a bunt down,” Gibson said.
Everything else about Gibson’s night was smooth. He made five plate appearances because he kept his pitch count down and the Twins kept adding to their lead. That combination enabled Gibson to throw the first nine-inning complete game of his career as the Twins whipped the Braves 10-3 at Turner Field, improving to 16-8 over their past 24 road games since the start of July.
“I guess it’s a pretty good milestone,” said Gibson (5-7), who threw an eight-inning complete game in a loss last Sept. 8 at Kansas City.
Gibson became the first Twins pitcher since Johan Santana on June 19, 2007, to make five plate appearances in a game. He bunted into a forceout in the first before striking out in his next three trips to the plate. He did draw a walk and came around to score during the Twins’ four-run ninth.
“He avoided the golden sombrero there in the last at-bat,” manager Paul Molitor said. “We’ve had trouble bunting with our position players, much less our pitchers.”
Gibson was much more dangerous with the bat out of his hand. He gave up a two-run homer to Freddie Freeman in the third inning and a solo shot to Nick Markakis in the ninth. Between those blows, Gibson was mostly dominant.
After getting a double-play grounder by Matt Kemp to escape a first-and-third jam in the fifth inning, Gibson retired 12 of his final 14 batters — six by strikeout. He needed eight pitches to get through the sixth, 11 in the seventh and six in the eighth. Sitting on 90 pitches at that point, it was a no-brainer to let him finish.
“They got a little more aggressive toward the end of the game,” Gibson said. “[Catcher] Juan Centeno did a good job of recognizing that and we threw some first-pitch offspeed pitches to get some quick outs.”
The Twins’ 14-hit attack included four doubles. Back-to-back doubles by Eddie Rosario and Centeno in the sixth broke a 2-2 tie, and the Twins never looked back. They scored three times in the seventh, then tacked on four runs in the ninth.
The conditions were perfect for Gibson to finish out the game, and he did with 115 pitches, 73 for strikes. He gave up three runs on eight hits and three walks with the six strikeouts.
“I think, for me, I’m trying to keep developing into the guy I want to be,” Gibson said. “You have to go deep into the game on days when the team gives you the lead like that. And it’s the first time I’ve really been able to do that in a long time.’’
Over the Twins’ past five road series, they have won four and split a four-gamer. They haven’t all been cheapies either, as the list includes Texas, Boston and Cleveland.
Mauer has sore legs
First baseman Joe Mauer, coming off a 3-for-4 night on Tuesday that included a home run, did not play because of sore quadriceps in both legs.
Molitor said Mauer’s legs were sore last week and noted how Mauer had to run from first to home on Plouffe’s double in the first inning Tuesday.
“I don’t think he was running at 100 percent the rest of the game,” Molitor said. “Could have I pushed him out there? Probably. But I think he would tell you that he’s not at 100 percent in terms of what he can do on the bases and that might affect his defense. … Nothing major, but I know that he’s not 100 percent.”
It sort of fits into Molitor’s plans to rest Mauer a little more during the final weeks of the season.
Sano getting closer
Miguel Sano made about 15 to 20 throws before Tuesday’s game and threw some more before Wednesday’s game as he tries to get over a sore right elbow. Molitor said Sano is not quite 100 percent, but it looks as if his elbow has improved enough that he could be available to play third base Thursday at Kansas City. If not, Sano likely will be the designated hitter.
“We’ll see what Kansas City brings,” Molitor said.