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Twins tidbits: Gibson’s bad bullpen turns into a brilliant performance; Garver’s power move; and a Buxton update

MINNEAPOLIS — Kyle Gibson was uncertain what to expect as he jogged in from the bullpen before starting for the Twins on Friday night against the Kansas City Royals at Target Field.

“That was about as erratic as I’ve been warming up in a while,” Gibson said. “I just didn’t feel good. I don’t know what was going on. It felt like I slept on my right arm all night.”

Gibson’s concerns began to disappear as he retired the first nine Royals’ hitters he faced. The righthander finally gave up a hit in the fourth inning to Whit Merrifield — he was quickly erased on a double play — but that was one of only two hits he surrendered in eight innings. He also struck out six (and walked none) in the Twins’ 2-0 victory before a sold out crowd of 38,898 that saw the Twins win on catcher Mitch Garver’s two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning.

“We were walking back on the field from the bullpen, and I knew he didn’t have a great bullpen session,” Garver said. “He’s a vet. He’ll figure it out on the field. If he doesn’t have it, then he’ll get through the game with not his best stuff. But he did find it. In the first inning, he got a punchout there early (on No. 2 hitter Nicky Lopez) and he was locating well. I think overall just a great performance.”

Gibson became the 11th pitcher this season to throw eight-plus innings, give up no runs and two-or-less hits.

“I started to loosen up as the game went, but I would say (I knew everything was working) probably in the second or third inning when I figured out where my changeup was and where my curveball was,” Gibson said. “The slider and the fastball from the get-go felt really good, but Garv and I were just on the same page all night. I’ve told you guys before, but whenever I can grip a curveball or a pitch that I don’t throw as much and that’s the first sign Garv throws down, that’s always a good night.”

In the sixth inning, Gibson became the 11th Twins pitcher to eclipse the 1,000 innings pitched mark in his career. He joins a list that includes Jim Kaat, Bert Blyleven, Brad Radke, Jim Perry, Frank Viola, Dave Goltz, Johan Santana, Camilo Pascual, Kevin Tapani and Dave Boswell.

Gibson departed having thrown only 88 pitches, including 55 for strikes. But when Garver blasted his home run, manager Rocco Baldelli told Gibson his night was finished and that lefty Taylor Rogers (who had been sidelined in the previous serious by back stiffness) would come in for the save. Rogers retired the Royals one-two-three but Gibson admitted he would have liked to have had a shot at the complete game.

“I always care,” about coming out, Gibson said. “Rocco and Wes (Johnson, the Twins’ pitching coach) and just about everybody that’s been around me, knows I really never want to come out of a game. I asked if I could go until I get a runner on and he quickly said, ‘No,’ they were bringing Rog in. I think if you ask any starting pitcher, there’s not an inning or a game that he doesn’t want to finish it if he thinks he still has something in the tank.”

Baldelli said there were numerous factors that went into the decision to remove Gibson.

“Gibby was throwing the ball great,” Baldelli said. “There was no sign that it was time to get Kyle out of the game. He threw the ball so well. I think there are lot of factors. It’s a good close game. We have Rog, who is as good as it gets with what he does, extremely well-rested and ready to go. Truthfully, I don’t think there is a wrong decision there.

“I just thought the right thing to do was to get Rog in there. He’s probably champing at the bit after not throwing in a while. I thought it just made sense to get him out there. I thought the matchups made sense. I just thought there was a few things that pointed in that direction. But when a guy is throwing the ball that well it’s a pretty unique start. You don’t see many starts that go quite like that. It was a phenomenal start.”

POWER SOURCE

Garver now has 11 home runs on the season, but it’s safe to say that Friday’s was his favorite thus far. Facing Royals reliever Jake Diekman, after starter Brad Keller had given up no runs and three hits in seven innings, Garver crushed a 96-mile-per-hour, two-out sinker to left center.

That sent the capacity crowd — the fourth sell out of the year at Target Field — into a frenzy that ended with Garver taking a curtain call. His home run also meant the game lasted only 2 hours, 21 minutes.

“It’s a little cliché, but that’s something you dream about,” Garver said. “Right before that pitch, I got into my own head. I was like, ‘I’m going to hit a home run here.’ I wanted to try and pull it. I was like, ‘No, no, no.’ I stepped out, grabbed a piece of dirt and was like, ‘I need to reset.’ I was like, ‘I’m going to go right-center gap. I’m going to cheat to the fastball. I’m going to catch it out front.’ All these things going through my head. The plan that I had getting into the box, I stayed with it and executed it. That’s super rewarding.”

Gibson said that four Twins players in the dugout had called a home run for Garver right before he hit the pitch.

As for being called out of the dugout to take a bow, Garver said: “(That’s) by far the coolest thing I’ve ever done on a baseball field. I’ve never had a curtain call. I’ve always dreamed. I’ve watched Joe (Mauer) do them. I’ve watched Rosie (Eddie Rosario)  do them. Like, ‘Man, I want to get one of those one day.’”

On Friday night, one day before Mauer has his No. 7 retired and with several Twins alumni on hand, Garver got to do exactly that.

“That was a fun one today,” Gibson said of the crowd. “They were on every pitch. We’ve got a lot of really good baseball fans here in Minnesota and when they show up in that number, you can hear big situations when they’re ready for it and they know what to do. So for us to reward them right there in the (eighth) inning with a big moment and for Garv to come through right there, it’s going to be a fun weekend. I think this was just the start of it obviously. We’ll see another 40,000 tomorrow night and it’ll be pretty special.”

THAT HURTS

Twins center fielder Byron Buxton was lifted for a pinch hitter (Marwin Gonzalez) in the eighth inning after being hit on the right wrist by a pitch in the sixth. The Twins announced that Buxton had suffered a bruise on the wrist and was day-to-day.

“Byron’s doing fine,” Baldelli said. “He came out OK. We took some images and they came back negative. The result of that, obviously, is good. We’ll see how he is (Saturday) when he gets here. But it’s pretty positive news.”





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