CLEVELAND – Handed his fourth victory of the season on Tuesday, Kyle Gibson mysteriously gave it back. The Twins are fortunate they didn’t, too.
“I don’t know what happened, to be honest,” Gibson confessed after the Twins’ suddenly ebullient offense absorbed his breakdown and still rolled to their fifth victory in six games, 10-6 at Progressive Field. “This is one of the odder interviews, because we’re talking about me throwing bad — but it’s a win, and I’ll take that every time.”
Well, maybe not every time, but Twins pitchers certainly have plenty of margin for error right now. Minnesota leads MLB in scoring since July 1, has more home runs than any team in that time, too, and has pummeled the Indians with 22 runs and 19 extra-base hits in two days here, against star pitchers Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco.
Three weeks ago, the Rangers owned the AL’s best record, until the Twins walloped them with 38 runs over four games, giving Cleveland the top record. Now they’ve returned that honor to Texas, by pounding Indians pitching.
“We’re seeing the offense we knew we had,” Gibson testified. “I don’t think it’s a fluke.”
They certainly hope his bizarre fifth-inning hiccup is. At one point, Gibson said, catcher Kurt Suzuki walked to the mound to ask: “Are you all right?”
He is, thanks to his teammates. Max Kepler slugged his fourth home run of the series, Brian Dozier crushed his 20th blast of the season, and the Twins staked Gibson to an eight-run lead. But the veteran righthander, one out away from cashing in that gift from his teammates, suddenly crumbled under the weight of six consecutive hits, including a pair of two-run sonic-boom shots by Carlos Santana and Mike Napoli, and couldn’t complete the required five innings for a win.
“Bad pitch after bad pitch,” he grumbled.
But the Twins bullpen didn’t throw many, shutting down Cleveland’s hitters for the final four innings and reeling in the win, Minnesota’s seventh in 11 games against the first-place Indians. Michael Tonkin ended Gibson’s nightmare inning with a strikeout of Abraham Almonte, and Ryan Pressly rescued Tonkin from a first-and-third jam in the sixth to earn his team-high sixth win.
It also was the Twins’ eighth double-digit output of the season, all of them coming since June 21.
“We’re getting it done with all facets of hitting — base hits, we’re drawing walks, it’s all clicking,” said Dozier, who became the first Twin since Jason Kubel from 2008-10 to record three consecutive seasons with 20 homers. “It’s a lot of fun, I can tell you that.”
Same for Kepler, who launched a third-inning blast shortly after Dozier’s, giving him 15 on the season, most by any AL rookie.
“His swing’s just locked in,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “They tried to sneak a fastball in there after some off-speed pitches, and he was still ready.”
One day after ravaging Salazar for six runs in a two-inning start, shortest of his career, the Twins thumped Carrasco even worse. Besides the home runs, the Twins punished Carrasco with two doubles from Joe Mauer, another by Jorge Polanco and Danny Santana, and a long blast off the center-field wall by Miguel Sano that drove home two and ended Carrasco’s night. The damage amounted to eight runs and seven extra-base hits, both career highs allowed by Carrasco, all in just 3 ⅔ innings.
Carrasco’s ERA entering the game was 2.45, which would have led the American League if he had an additional 10 innings to qualify. By the time the Twins were through, it stood at 3.15.