OAKLAND, Calif. – For a Jake Cave homer, Sunday’s two-run blast was puny. For Kyle Gibson and the walkoff-ridden Twins, it was monumental.
Cave, whose 419-foot average home run distance is the longest in the AL, drove a first-inning sinker from Trevor Cahill over the wall in center field, handing Gibson a lead to protect and the Athletics a deficit they never erased. The result was a 5-1 victory for the Twins, a postponement for Oakland’s playoff-clinching celebration, and an end to the Twins’ weakness for walkoffs, at least for this year.
Gibson recorded an eighth-inning out for only the third time this season and turned in one of his most impressive outings, particularly given the Twins’ recent history at Oakland Coliseum. Gibson allowed seven hits, five of them singles, and struck out three en route to his ninth victory of the season, and first ever in Oakland — where the Twins had lost four consecutive games, over two seasons, in walkoff style.
“To come back after a couple of late losses and find a way to play as well as we did, it starts with your starting pitcher,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “Kyle was a little frustrated early with some of the pitches that were at the bottom of the zone, but he kept grinding.”
So did Cave, and his homer set the tone for the day. After Joe Mauer led off the game with a single and Jorge Polanco took strike three, Cave worked the count to 2-2 before unloading on a Cahill pitch that hung in the middle of the strike zone. It traveled 417 feet, easily clearing the center field wall, but according to MLB’s Statcast data, still ranked as the fourth-shortest of the dozen homers Cave has crushed this season.
“I had no idea [of his hit-ball-far league-leadership]. I’m just looking to be on time and drive the ball hard,” Cave said. “When I connect, good things have happened. That’s one of the things that’s beautiful about baseball, you don’t have to be the biggest, strongest guy if you hit it right.”
Cave came up through the Yankees system with Aaron Judge, whose average homer — thanks to the short right field at Yankee Stadium turning would-be fly outs into home runs — measures a paltry-by-comparison 397 feet this year. “Yeah, I’m not even close. He’s in a different class,” Cave said. “Coming up, I would hit a few balls that would really travel, but this is the most consistently I’ve ever don’t it, certainly to hit it that far. I’m really putting in the work to drive the baseball, and it’s helping.”
Gibson’s pitching helped the Twins finish this road trip with a 5-5 record, their first .500 multicity trip since early June. He allowed a second-inning home run to Matt Olson on a full count, but then held the A’s scoreless until being removed with one out in the eighth.
He was helped by his defense, too; Polanco and Ehire Adrianza each started impressive double plays to end innings for Gibson, Adrianza’s play coming on a hot smash by Matt Chapman that replays showed was actually past him when he gloved it.
“You can’t start talking about anything I did without talking about the defense,” said Gibson (9-13) after lowering his ERA to 3.68. “It was an incredible display. When I’m putting baserunners on, I’m not nearly as effective unless we can turn those double plays.”