It was not a pretty start for Kyle Gibson, but he was bailed out as the Twins bullpen combined for 6 shutout innings while the offense scored 3 late runs in the 7th inning against the Houston 'pen as the Twins beat the Astros 6-4 on Saturday evening.
Gibson had trouble immediately in the first inning. He gave up a single to leadoff hitter Jonathan Villar and then after Villar advanced on a stolen base, second baseman Jose Altuve hit a fly ball to deep center field that Clete Thomas misjudged, and the ball hopped over the center field fence for a ground-rule double and a 1-0 deficit for the Twins.
They tied the game in the bottom of the frame against Houston starter Erik Bedard when Brian Dozier led off with a triple to right-center field. Joe Mauer batted next and quickly brought the tying run home with a groundout to Altuve at second base.
The Twins then took the lead in the bottom of the 2nd with the help of another leadoff triple, this time from Oswaldo Arcia. Chris Colabello followed with a groundout to 1st base that failed to bring home Arcia, but after a Clete Thomas walk, Doug Bernier - a late addition to the lineup when Pedro Florimon suffered a sore wrist in batting practice - brought home Arcia with an RBI single and advanced Thomas to 3rd.
This brought up Brian Dozier, who struck out on a full count against Bedard. Bernier took off on the pitch, but either by design or by accident, Bernier stopped about three-quarters of the way and then started retreating to 1st base. Catcher Jason Castro threw to Altuve at second base, who then chased Bernier back to 1st. Thomas, realizing that Altuve was more concerned with Bernier, started to scamper home. Altuve attempted to put himself into position to throw home to get Thomas, but 1st baseman Brett Wallace left the bag and sideswiped Altuve just enough that he was unable to throw the ball back to Castro at home. The play was officially scored as a steal of home for Thomas, and the Twins now had a 3-1 lead.
However, Gibson continued to struggle in the 2nd and 3rd innings. In the 2nd, he gave up a pair of singles and a walk, but he managed to escape without giving up any runs. But, he ran into bad luck with 2 outs in the 3rd. After retiring the first two hitters, Gibson fell behind Brett Wallace 1-0 before leaving a fastball over the plate, which Wallace hit out to the bullpens to cut the deficit to 3-2. Matt Dominguez backed up Wallace's home run with a double, and then three consecutive groundball singles to center field gave the Astros a 4-3 lead.
Even though Gibson had only thrown 81 pitches, Ron Gardenhire had decided he'd seen enough and went to Anthony Swarzak to start the 4th. It turned out this was the right call, as Swarzak equaled Gibson with 3 innings pitched, but the difference was that Swarzak held the Astros to only one baserunner with 5 strikeouts.
Swarzak's masterful pitching allowed the game to stay close and the Twins finally took advantage in the 7th. With Bedard out of the game after pitching 6 innings, starter-turned-reliever Lucas Harrell was tasked with getting the game to the 8th inning with the lead intact for the Astros. However, his struggles as a starter followed him into his relief outing tonight. He gave up a leadoff double to Clete Thomas, who then was bunted over to 3rd by Doug Bernier.* This brought up Dozier, who continued his hot hitting of late by using a protect-the-plate swing with a 1-2 count to softly serve a Harrell fastball down the right field line for a double, which brought home Thomas with the tying run.
* Oh my god, RandBall's Stu's article on the Twins telling Byron Buxton to hit fewer triples in lieu of doubles and getting bunted to third was true!
Harrell intentionally walked Joe Mauer, perhaps with the intent of trying to end the inning with a double play from Justin Morneau, but instead Morneau drew an unintentional walk to load the bases. This brought up Ryan Doumit, who swung at a sinker that was below his knees, but got under it enough to bloop it in front of center fielder Brandon Barnes to give the Twins a 5-4 lead. Following a Trevor Plouffe pop-out, Oswaldo Arcia drew a bases loaded walk to get them their final run.
From there, Casey Fien and Glen Perkins came on and faced only 6 Astros in navigating through the 8th and 9th innings to give the Twins the series win over Houston.
WP: Brian Duensing (4-1)
LP: Lucas Harrell (5-12)
S: Glen Perkins (26)
Brian Dozier (2 for 4, BB, 2B, 3B, 2 R, RBI), Ryan Doumit (2 for 4, game-winning RBI), Oswaldo Arcia (2 for 3, BB, 3B, R, RBI), Anthony Swarzak (3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K)
Kyle Gibson (3 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 2 K), Trevor Plouffe and Chris Colabello (both 0 for 4, 1 K)
Player of the Game
I give it to Anthony Swarzak, as his 3 scoreless innings not only helped save the bullpen after Friday's 13-inning game, but it also kept the score close enough that the 3-run rally in the 7th was enough to beat the Astros.