DETROIT – The preludes to impending disaster are so impressive for Kyle Gibson. But the detonations are so flammable.
Gibson has thrown seven marvelous innings in his two starts this season, with barely a whisper of a threat. He’s thrown two others, though, that have undone all that good work. On Wednesday, the powder keg erupted in a five-run fourth inning and came in the form of a grand slam by Andrew Romine, the decisive blow in the Twins’ 5-3 loss to the Tigers.
“Just like [Tuesday] — one swing beat us,” said second baseman Brian Dozier, who contributed his first home run of the season. “That’s the way this game can be. We play well, we pitch well, and we’d have two wins here except for two swings. You’ve got to have that Mike Tyson knockout punch, and they’ve had it. We haven’t.”
Romine’s grand slam, the first Gibson has allowed in his five-year career, was more dramatic than the decisive two-run shot that James McCann hit off Hector Santiago on Tuesday, and it came with a flourish, too: a nifty flip of the bat that Gibson said was understandable, not insulting.
“He put a good swing on it in a big situation,” Gibson said. “No hard feelings from me.”
That doesn’t mean it should have happened, either, Gibson said. The Twins had provided him three runs with which to work against reigning AL Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer, and instead of pitching aggressively with his fastball, he allowed both Tyler Collins, who drove home a run with a single, and Romine to feast on pitches they could better handle.
“It’s just a matter of continuing to make the same pitches with nobody on as you do when you get in a little bit of danger,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “It looked like his feel for the pitch and his trust in them kind of waned a little bit as the inning wore on.”
That inning included a leadoff double by Nick Castellanos on a 3-2 pitch, a slider that bounced off Victor Martinez’s left foot and a four-pitch walk to Justin Upton.
And the home run pitch itself, on a 1-2 count with the bases loaded and two outs? It was the pitch Gibson wanted to throw, in the spot he wanted to throw it. But that down-and-in slider is what Romine wanted, too.
“If he’s going to put that good of a swing on the ball, down below the [strike] zone, he’s probably looking for [the slider] in that situation,” Gibson said. “If you execute a pitch like that and it’s a ball out of the zone and they still get the barrel to it and hit it that hard, they were probably looking for it. … Wrong pitch at the wrong time.”
“We were still in control, as far as two out, two strikes, 3-1 lead. But [Gibson] got too much of the plate with a slider,” Molitor said. “Fulmer hung in there. Not his best day, but he walks away with a win because he grinded out six innings.”
And who could have expected that? The worst part of the loss is that the Twins had waited out Fulmer, running his pitch count to 74 with a 40-pitch third inning. They also loaded the bases with two outs, and Joe Mauer knocked a 3-and-2 pitch up the middle for a two-run single.
That gave the Twins a three-run cushion, and it appeared Fulmer’s day would be short. But it was Gibson who was gone soon; Fulmer rebounded by lasting three more innings, retiring the final 10 hitters he faced, and the Tigers’ bullpen didn’t allow a hit over the final three innings, either.
“We had him on the ropes,” Dozier said of Fulmer. “Gol, we let him get away. That’s what’s frustrating. You’ve got to find ways to stomp on their throats.”