Kyle Gibson is trying to free his mind so the results will follow.
He’s no longer trying to throw the perfect pitch. He’s no longer worrying about the consequences if he’s not productive. And he’s not trying to turn his season around with one outing.
Just get the sign from the catcher. Throw the pitch. Repeat.
“I don’t think my stuff is that much better,” Gibson said, “I think my mind-set has allowed me to execute better.”
The Twins righthander, who spent part of the season at Class AAA Rochester to rediscover what works for him, is beginning to see the benefits of his mental adjustment. On Tuesday, he pitched 6⅔ solid innings to help the Twins beat the Angels 5-4 at Target Field.
While the game tightened up late — the Angels scored on an Albert Pujols home run off Taylor Rogers in the eighth, then Andrelton Simmons scored on shortstop Ehire Adrianza’s throwing error in the ninth before closer Brandon Kintzler finished up his 22nd save — Gibson put the Twins in a good spot to win their second game in as many days. He gave up two runs on five hits and two walks with four strikeouts. Over his past nine starts since his return from a 2½-week stint in the minors in May, Gibson is 5-2 with a 4.59 ERA.
“Gibby, again, showed progress,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “When he ran into trouble, it usually was when he was trying to get too fine. But I think, overall, he threw the ball well [Tuesday] and got us fairly deep.”
Adalberto Mejia pitched seven innings Monday, and Gibson took the mound for the seventh looking to do the same. He fell just short, getting two outs before walking former Twin Ben Revere. That brought Molitor out of the dugout to relieve Gibson and bring in Rogers.
If Molitor had allowed Gibson to get one more out, it would have been only the fourth time all season the Twins have had consecutive starts of at least seven innings. It still was Gibson’s longest outing since Sept. 13 last year at Detroit, where he pitched eight innings.
“It helps when you only have to go through a couple of relievers,” Molitor said, “instead of burning through guys.”
Of Gibson’s 102 pitches, 67 were strikes. He used his sinker to get ground balls and mixed in his slider and changeup when needed. He needed only 33 pitches to get through the third through fifth innings, a sign that he was around the plate with his pitches.
The Twins broke a 1-1 tie in the fifth behind an RBI double from Robbie Grossman, who then scored on Joe Mauer’s single. Kole Calhoun homered in the sixth to get the Angels within one run, but a sacrifice fly by Adrianza and a solo home run by Byron Buxton gave the Twins a 5-2 lead.
Buxton was 3-for-4, while Adrianza had two sacrifice flies. The Twins moved to 5-1 against the Angels this season and 12-10 overall against the AL West. Ervin Santana takes the mound Wednesday as the Twins go for a sweep of the three-game series, set up by Gibson’s new approach on the mound.
“My job is to go out there and give the team a chance to win,” Gibson said. “It is going to look different every five days, but I’ve just been thankful the mind-set has been where it has needed to be.”