KANSAS CITY, Mo. _ Kyle Gibson didn’t strike out a Royals hitter on Thursday and had to deal with runners on base in all but one inning. You’re thinking: Back to the old victim-of-circumstances right-hander of old?
Well, yes and no. Gibson left with a deficit, but only after utilizing his talent for inducing double-play grounders to douse any Kansas City offense.
And while he didn’t earn his fourth consecutive victory, when the Twins rallied with three runs in the ninth inning, it hardly mattered.
Minnesota’s sudden comeback off Royals closer Kelvin Herrera produced a 4-2 victory in Kauffman Stadium and moved the Twins one full game ahead of the Angels in the wild-card standings.
Trailing 2-1 entering the ninth, the Twins tied the score on a sacrifice fly by Brian Dozier. Jorge Polanco then delivered a two-run single up the middle for the lead.
Gibson allowed eight hits over seven innings, but none of those hits left the ballpark and seven of them were singles. Gibson repeatedly worked out of trouble that in starts of yore would have scuttled his night with an ugly blowup, and those sharp ground balls were the reason.
Double plays ended the fourth, sixth and seventh innings, and Gibson, in a rare show of emotion on the field, pumped his fist and bumped his chest in celebration after the final out of his night, a comebacker to the mound that he turned into an inning-ending DP. It appeared that his celebration would be misplaced, though, because the Twins’ offense sputtered every time it mounted a threat.
Robbie Grossman lined a solo home run into the bullpen in the fifth inning, but the Twins couldn’t manage another run against newly acquired Royals right-hander Sam Gaviglio and the KC bullpen. The Twins managed to go 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position through the first eight innings, sabotaging what should have been Gibson’s 10th win of the season.
Instead, the Twins collected what might be a memorable comeback victory. Max Kepler contributed a leadoff single and Jason Castro reached base on a popup down the left field line that Alcides Escobar tried to catch with his back to the plate. He couldn’t hang on, though, and when Herrera walked Grossman, the Twins had the bases loaded.
Dozier followed with a sacrifice fly that Gordon caught on the run near the left-field wall, and Kepler scored easily, marking Herrera’s fourth blown save of the season. After intentionally walking Joe Mauer _ his fifth time reaching base on the night _ Polanco smacked a single to center, scoring two Twins and setting off another celebration in the Twins’ dugout.
All of the Royals’ damage against Gibson came in a four-batter stretch of the fifth inning. Escobar lined a one-out double into the right-field corner, Alex Gordon drove him home with a single to right, and after moving up on a ground out, broke the tie when Whit Merrifield lined a single to Kepler.
Kepler retrieved the ball on a bounce and whistled a throw to the plate in time to nail Gordon, but as Castro made a swipe tag on Gordon, the ball popped out of his mitt.