The guy once groomed as Derek Jeter’s successor as New York’s shortstop provided all the offense the Twins could muster on Thursday. The guy who actually got the job provided more.
The Yankees probably feel pretty good about that decision.
Didi Gregorius timed Fernando Abad’s first pitch perfectly and drove it into the right field seats, a three-run blast that broke open a tie game and delivered the Yankees’ sixth consecutive victory over the Twins, 4-1 at Target Field. It was the third consecutive loss for the Twins, and the 10th time this season they have lost at least three in a row.
Abad “hadn’t given up a home run all year. He’d been throwing the ball really well. There’s not too many guys I’d rather have coming in in that situation,” said Kyle Gibson, who faced the minimum 15 batters over five innings, then retired only three of the last nine hitters he faced. “It was just one of those days for him.”
For Gibson, too. It met the technical definition of a quality start, barely, but the Twins righthander took great relief from his overall effectiveness, if not the final score. He induced a pair of damage-limiting double plays, allowed few hard-hit balls, and didn’t walk a batter until the sixth inning. For a pitcher carrying a 6.49 ERA into the game, it was a sign of progress.
“Some things I’ve been working on in the bullpen, I finally was able to take them to the mound and use them in the game, which was good,” said Gibson, who nevertheless fell to 0-5. “I felt more like myself, more like last year and 2014, when I was throwing the ball a little bit better.”
The Yankees loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth, and Gibson escaped with only one run, driven in by a Jacoby Ellsbury single, after forcing Brett Gardner to pop up and Carlos Beltran to hit into a double play.
But the Yankees’ onslaught continued in the seventh, with Alex Rodriguez reaching on an infield hit and Brian McCann drawing a walk. After Starlin Castro’s sacrifice bunt, Abad relieved Gibson to face the lefthanded-hitting Gregorius, and it didn’t go well for the Twins’ most reliable reliever. Abad tried a first-pitch fastball high in the strike zone to get ahead, but the Yankees shortstop didn’t let it go by, smacking his fifth home run of the season nearly 400 feet.
“We just wanted to bring [Abad] in there and face that particular part of the lineup. You’re hoping for a strikeout, and even a walk wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world,” manager Paul Molitor said. “He tried to get ahead, and [Gregorius] was ready.”
That made a winner of CC Sabathia, the Yankees workhorse who has been one of the AL’s best pitchers for the past five weeks. Sabathia had control problems early in the game, walking two in the first inning, and another (plus a hit batter) in the second.
But the Twins couldn’t capitalize on those chances, most predictably when Robbie Grossman batted with the bases loaded and two outs in the second inning. Grossman hit a Sabathia fastball hard, but right at first baseman Ike Davis, keeping the Twins hitless on the season — they are 0-for-20 now — with three on and two out.
Eduardo Nunez, who as he came up through the Yankees system was widely projected to someday take over for Jeter, had the Twins’ lone clutch hit, a two-out single off Sabathia in the fourth inning, driving in Max Kepler, who had doubled. It was the Twins’ lone run, but that was an achievement: Sabathia had not allowed a run in June.