Daily Reporter staff reports
ATLANTA — If there’s one thing that’s plagued Kyle Gibson recently, it’s been his troubles pitching deep into games.
The Greenfield-Central graduate hadn’t gone more than five innings in any of his past three starts, and he had lasted more than six innings just once over his past seven starts. But that changed Wednesday, as Gibson turned in the first nine-inning complete game of his four-year career in a 10-3 win against the Braves.
Gibson, who gave up three runs on eight hits and three walks with six strikeouts, recorded a complete game against the Royals last year, but it was eight innings and came in a loss in Kansas City.
“It’s a pretty good milestone,” Gibson told MLB.com reporters. “It’s the first nine-inning one I’ve done and it was a win, which was good. For me, I’m just trying to develop into the guy I want to be, and that means pitching deep into games when your team gets a lead. It was the first time I was able to do that in a long time.”
He improved to 5-7 with a 4.90 ERA through 17 starts this season but struggled with his command a bit early, allowing a leadoff single and a walk in the first before getting out of the jam. He also walked a batter in the second and threw a wild pitch before serving up a two-run homer to Freddie Freeman in the third.
But Gibson settled down from there, including getting out of fifth-inning jam with a double play, and was economical with his pitch count late, helped by an eight-pitch sixth inning, an 11-pitch seventh and a six-pitch eighth.
Gibson credited catcher Juan Centeno for noticing the Braves were swinging early in the count, which allowed Gibson to make an adjustment.
“They got a little bit more aggressive there later in the game,” Gibson told MLB.com reporters. “The seventh and eighth, they were aggressive, and Juan did a nice job of recognizing that. So we went with a lot of offspeed first pitches to get outs.”
At 90 pitches after eight innings, Gibson remained in the game to hit in the ninth, becoming the first Twins pitcher to record five plate appearances in a game since Johan Santana in 2007. Gibson, though, helped prolong an eventual four-run inning by drawing a walk and later came around to score.
After the long half-inning, Gibson promptly served up a solo homer to Nick Markakis but pitched around a single from Dansby Swanson to strike out the side.
Twins manager Paul Molitor said he simply wanted to give Gibson the chance to finish it off, even after the long ninth inning and the homer from Markakis. Gibson finished with a season-high 115 pitches, but he will get an extra day of rest with Monday’s off-day.
“The insurance runs helped,” Molitor said. “Markakis hit the homer, and I got (J.T.) Chargois up just in case. But I really wanted to give him the chance to finish. Not knowing it was his first (nine-inning) complete game, I thought he had enough to finish, and he did a nice job striking out the side there in the ninth.”
Kyle Gibson scattered eight hits and surrendered three runs against the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday to record his first career complete game win. He fanned six and walked three while throwing 115 pitches. The win improves his record to 5-7 in 17 starts. Gibson’s pitching line against the Braves as well as for the 2016 season: