KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Three extras after the Twins pull off a ninth-inning rally:
Kyle Gibson said he’s trying not to be mild-mannered Kyle on the mound anymore, he’s trying to be Gung-Ho Gibby. That’s why he pumped his fist after spearing Ramon Torres’ one-hopper and starting an inning-ending double play on Friday.
“I’ve been trying to let loose a little bit with the emotions every now and then, trying to have a little bit more fun. Just enjoy myself,” Gibson explained after his latest gem, a seven-inning, two-run Houdini act — it included three inning-ending double plays — that kept the game close enough for a Twins’ rally. “We’re in a lot of fun games, a lot of important games right now. Any time your defense helps you out with great plays, it fires me up.”
Yet Gibson has his limits. He disputed reporters who mentioned after the game that he also thumped his own chest as he walked off the mound. We even called up the video to resolve the issue, but the broadcast didn’t catch his … outburst?
Still, even Paul Molitor noted how spirited Gibson has become of late, during his four-games-and-counting resurgence.
“If you’re, for the most part, kind of reserved in your emotion, it’s good to let it out,” the manager said. “He got out of jams there in the sixth and seventh [innings], and came out with zeroes. He was fired up.”
Even after his night was done, Molitor said. “he was our biggest cheerleader in the eighth and ninth. He was really into it.”
Molitor complimented Gibson in another way, too: He trusted him to work out of trouble. When Melky Cabrera and Eric Hosmer led off the sixth inning with back-to-back singles, threatening to widen Kansas City’s 2-1 lead, Molitor showed no sign of being tempted to remove him, as he likely would have earlier in the season. He didn’t even send pitching coach Neil Allen to the mound.
“I appreciate that. He leaves me in for [Mike] Moustakas there, and you know what, it’s a guy that I want. You want to be the guy that’s left in the game,” Gibson said. Gibson proved it, after retiring Salvador Perez on a fly ball to center, by inducing a double-play ball to second base, ending the inning.
“Castro and I were on the same page the whole time. We had a meeting before the last pitch and figured out what we wanted to do,” Gibson said. “The gameplan we had all day allowed that pitch to work.”
Jorge Polanco drove in the go-ahead runs in the ninth inning off Kelvin Herrera, but one inning earlier, his task was quite different. After Joe Mauer led off with a single, Polanco executed a sacrifice bunt to move Mauer to second.
The bunt was successful, but the rally failed; Eddie Rosario struck out and Byron Buxton grounded out, albeit on a pair of great short-hop plays by third baseman Ramon Torres and first baseman Eric Hosmer, to end the inning.
Polanco’s bunt marked the third time this season that the No. 3 hitter in the Twins’ lineup had sacrificed. Only five other teams in the majors have received sacrifices from their third hitter, and none more than once.
Mauer, by the way, reached base all five times he came to the plate, the 17th time in his career, and second this season, that he’s done that. Mauer is batting .471 (24 for 51) since Aug. 24.