MINNEAPOLIS — Kyle Gibson was searching for a bounce-back performance Saturday night, and he found it against the Seattle Mariners at Target Field.
The Greenfield native had a stellar outing with just two runs allowed in seven innings to keep the Minnesota Twins close late as Kurt Suzuki provided the walk-off heroics.
Suzuki hit the winning RBI single with two outs in the ninth inning, after two wild pitches by Seattle closer Carson Smith let the Twins tie the score on their way to a 3-2 victory.
“It’s still only August 1, but you take them any way you can now,” said Suzuki, who’s been at the top of the list of slumping Twins.
Eddie Rosario was intentionally walked with two outs so Smith could face Suzuki with men at first and third. Rosario moved up on an errant slider while pinch-runner Shane Robinson raced home with the tying run.
Rosario’s risk was rewarded when he stole third base, putting him in position to score on Suzuki’s sharp single to left field that finished another frustrating night for the Twins at the plate on a celebratory note.
“Given the situation and the heightened intensity of that inning, they weren’t particularly paying a lot of attention to him,” said Twins manager Paul Molitor, whose base-running expertise has had a strong influence on his team.
Miguel Sano led off the ninth with a double and moved up on a fastball by Smith (1-5) that nearly hit Torii Hunter in the head and sailed past catcher Mike Zunino.
“I just didn’t throw strikes and get the job done,” Smith said.
With Rosario on third, Smith had little choice but to throw Suzuki the 3-1 fastball he was expecting.
“You sense frustration when opportunities have kind of gone by the wayside as the game unfolds, but you never know when you’re going to get another chance,” Molitor said. “I think veterans kind of respond to that opportunity.”
Trevor May (7-7) pitched a perfect ninth inning for the victory. The Twins scored their only run against Mariners starter Mike Montgomery on, of course, a wild pitch after Trevor Plouffe led off the fourth with a triple.
The Twins, who are 5-9 since the All-Star break, have scored three runs or less in eight of those 14 games. Still, they hold a one-game lead for the second AL wild-card spot.
“We needed that comeback,” said Twins starter Kyle Gibson, who finished seven innings by stranding runners at second and third with none out.
Gibson struck out four batters and walked just one. He (8-8) matched his longest outing of the month since he earned his eighth win with four hits allowed over seven frames against Detroit on July 12.
In his past two starts, the Greenfield-Central graduate gave up 11 earned runs in 101/3 innings.
Gibson’s runs Saturday came off an RBI-ground out by Robinson Cano in the first inning and a solo home run by Nelson Cruz in the sixth.
The Twins trailed 2-1 when he exited the game after closing out the top of the seventh. Gibson’s 104-pitch outing led to 11 ground balls and eight pop-ups, which helped him escape unscathed with Seattle threatening.
Molitor’s trust in the right-hander with two runners on and no outs even with the bullpen active gave Suzuki another chance. Batting just .234 this season after being picked for the All-Star team last year, Suzuki was excited to see Rosario walked in front of him.
“I think anybody that plays this game wants to be in that position,” Suzuki said.
Gibson toes the rubber against the high-powered Toronto Blue Jays offense Thursday night at the Rogers Centre. In his career, he is 1-0 against Toronto through two starts and holds a 0.66 ERA in 13.2 innings pitched. Gibson is 3-4 on the road this season.
The Minnesota Twins’ Kyle Gibson pitched 7.0 innings Saturday, surrendering two runs against the Seattle Mariners. The Greenfield-Central graduate’s pitching line against the Mariners as well as for the season: