Sat, Jul 14, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Kyle Gibson leads Twins to victory over Rays

AP, MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota

Taiwan’s Hu Chih-wei of the Tampa Bay Rays pitches against the Minnesota Twins in their American League game in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Thursday.

Photo: AP

Nine years after drafting Kyle Gibson in the first round and six seasons into his major league career, the faith the Minnesota Twins have had in the lanky right-hander has finally been rewarded on a consistent basis.

He has gained a greater level of confidence in himself, too.

Gibson on Thursday struck out nine batters over eight easy innings for the Twins, who handed Tampa Bay ace Blake Snell his shortest start of the season and beat the Rays 5-1 after a two-hour rain delay.

“Just had to add to the caffeine and keep the body loose,” Gibson said.

Eddie Rosario hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning against Taiwanese reliever Hu Chih-wei for more cushion, but Gibson (4-6) was already well in control on his way to consecutive wins for the first time this year.

He gave up five hits without a walk and the only run he permitted came on a sacrifice fly by Kevin Kiermaier in the eighth.

“Hopefully, he pitches as well in the second half and gets a lot more wins to show for it,” Minnesota manager Paul Molitor said.

Fernando Rodney relieved Ryan Pressly in the ninth to get the last two outs and his 21st save, preserving the seventh victory in eight games for the Twins.

The Rays had their five-game winning streak ended after a rare clunker from Snell (12-5), who lasted only three innings and threw just 43 of 75 pitches for strikes.

The left-handed pitcher took the second-lowest ERA in the American League into the game, with just two runs allowed over his last 28-2/3 innings, while winning each of his past four, but he was in trouble every inning and found himself trailing 3-0 after back-to-back RBI doubles by Robbie Grossman and Jorge Polanco in the third.

“For whatever reason, he just wasn’t able to make the pitches that we’ve seen him make so many times this year,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.

Snell was not so upset about the early hook as he was about his own mechanical trouble that he believes he could have prevented.

“It was just a lot of me making mental errors and not correcting them as fast as I should have,” Snell said. “They capitalized.”

The Twins hustled through the third and Gibson took it from there.

He dropped his ERA to 3.42, more than a full run lower than his career mark.

He also has by far the best strikeout rate of his career, just short of an average of one per inning.

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