Baseball / Sports

The San Francisco Giants' Pablo Sandoval is congratulated by teammates Buster Posey, left, and Hunter Pence, right, after his three-run home run against the Minnesota Twins in the first inning at AT&T Park in San Francisco on Friday, May 23, 2014. (Jim Gensheimer/Bay Area News Group/MCT)

Giants use long ball to derail Twins, 6-2

SAN FRANCISCO -- The San Francisco Giants' beautiful bayside ballpark looks and feels like no other, which is too bad. There was no way to convince the Minnesota Twins' Kyle Gibson he was back home in Target Field.

Gibson did something uncharacteristic Friday night, giving up a pair of long home runs to Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Hicks, but also continued a distressing pattern, too -- getting rocked on the road. For the third time in his past four starts away from Minnesota, the former first-round pick gave up at least a run per inning, and the Giants walked away with a 6-2 victory in AT&T Park.

As good as Gibson has been in Target Field, where his ERA stands at 2.25 this season, he has been ineffective on the road. Four of the five hits he gave up Friday went for extra bases, and by the time he was lifted for a pinch hitter after five innings, his road ERA had ballooned to 7.77.

Gibson did not give up a home run in his first six starts this season, but his season total grew from one to three Friday. The most damaging was Sandoval's three-run shot in the first inning, a punctuation point on an odd inning that put the Twins in an early hole.

"One thing he's working on is trying to stay away from big innings. He'll have good innings, then have one where he loses it a bit and all of a sudden, you're down three or four runs," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Gibson before the game. "It's all about damage control, staying away from those big innings."

But after Angel Pagan led off the bottom of the first with a double, a handful of mistakes resulted in just the sort of damage Gardenhire feared. Gibson threw a wild pitch that enabled Pagan to move up, and then Hunter Pence hit a chopper to Trevor Plouffe at third. Plouffe looked Pagan back to the base, but after doing so, his throw to first base was a fraction of a second too late. (Pence was actually called out, but the Giants challenged the call and it was overturned.)

Buster Posey then hit what looked like a double-play ball to Plouffe, but Brian Dozier came off the base before Plouffe's throw arrived and Pence was safe again. Dozier then threw home and trapped Pagan in a rundown.

Perhaps the inning's weirdness affected Gibson. His next pitch was letter-high and down the middle, and Sandoval came just 10 feet or so shy of making it the 67th homer to splash into McCovey Cove.

Suddenly, the Twins were in a hole, making it harder to take advantage of Tim Lincecum's wildness. The two-time Cy Young Award winner walked six in six innings, but none of those free baserunners scored, as the Twins went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position against him. Their lone runs came in the third inning, when Dozier singled and Joe Mauer followed by lining a shot into a center-field nook, legging out his first triple since Sept. 23, 2012. Mauer then scored on Chris Parmelee's ground out.

Defense cost Gibson another run, when Jason Kubel's dive for Pagan's blooper along the left-field line allowed the ball to roll to the wall for a triple. Pence drove in Pagan with a grounder to short that glanced off Eduardo Escobar's glove for an error.

Brandon Hicks, hitting .195 coming in, connected off Gibson in the fourth for his eighth homer, a blast deep into the left-field stands.

Gibson, oddly enough, has now faced five former Cy Young winners this season, beating Blue Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey but losing to the Rays' David Price, the Dodgers' Zack Greinke, the Tigers' Max Scherzer and now Lincecum.

(c)2014 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

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