Back to basics

MILWAUKEE — Stuck in a career-worst losing trend, Minnesota Twins starter Kyle Gibson went back to the basics Saturday, and it paid off.

The Greenfield-Central graduate worked the Milwaukee Brewers for 12 ground balls that led to 13 outs, keeping the Brewers subdued as Gibson helped the Twins win 5-2 at Miller Park.

Winless since May 24, Gibson tossed 6⅔ innings and surrendered only two earned runs to notch his first victory after losing three straight.

The former University of Missouri standout recorded back-to-back no decisions after his most recent win, which kicked off four frustrating weeks.

In his final start of June, the right-hander relied on his forte, keeping the Brewers in play while scattering six hits and striking out three.

“That’s his game,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “We talked before the game about being more aggressive. He gets a lot of balls on the ground with his downward movement, especially with his sinker.”

Prior to the game, Gibson talked to both Molitor and battery mate Chris Herrmann about readjusting his pitch location against hitters early in the count. Molitor told him that he needed to attack the strike zone more often.

Gibson executed against the Brewers.

He had a seven-batter sequence early in the game where he threw first-pitch strikes to each and struck out the side in the second inning. The strategy upped his first-pitch strike percentage to 63.1, which is the best he’s posted in his three years in the majors.

Last season, he finished at 57.2 percent through 31 starts and his ground ball to fly ball ratio was 1.27. His ratio now sits at 1.23 and his batting average against dropped to .251.

“Flashes of strikeouts in the second inning isn’t really who I am,” Gibson said. “Getting those ground balls, that’s me. Just attacking the zone and not being so fine was pretty important.”

With all those ground balls, the defense stepped up behind Gibson, including a key double play turned in the fourth inning.

The 27-year-old has induced 17 double plays in 82 opportunities at 21 percent compared to 22 in 138 all of last season.

His teammates came up big again in the sixth inning with one out and runners on first and second. Twins center fielder Eddie Rosario was able to catch a blistering line drive off the bat of Carlos Gomez in left-center-field.

In the very next at-bat, second baseman Brian Dozier picked a sharp one-hopper in short right field from Anderson Highland High School graduate and former Indiana Mr. Baseball Adam Lind to end the frame.

“The defense played great today,” Gibson said. “The outfield was in the right spot there in the sixth inning to help me wiggle out of a jam. The infield turned a double play, and Dozier made a great play in the hole.”

Gibson’s next turn in the rotation is projected to take play when the Twins travel to division rival Kansas City this weekend. The franchise hopes his latest success will get him back on the right track.

“He’s got to trust his stuff, it’s really good,” Molitor said. “People don’t square him up a ton.”

Against the Kansas City Royals, Gibson is 1-2 with a 4.08 ERA. He’s struggled keeping runners off base, walking six and striking out nine in 17⅔ innings.

However, he’s carrying a 3.74 ERA and 2-3 record on the road and owns a career 2.68 ERA against the Royals, including a 2.25 ERA at Kauffman Stadium.

By the numbers

The Minnesota Twins’ Kyle Gibson pitched 6 2/3 innings on Saturday, surrendering two runs against the Milwaukee Brewers. The Greenfield-Central graduate’s pitching line against the Brewers as well as for the season: