DETROIT -- This time, Kyle Gibson ignored the error.
The Twins' right-hander pitched seven shutout innings, four of which ended with Tigers' runners in scoring position, but not scoring, and the Twins moved within three games of first place with a 2-0 victory over Detroit.
For Gibson, the victory wasn't just a physical one, but a mental one, too, considering how his last start in Comerica Park was ruined. In that May 10 game, Gibson allowed a small mistake by his infield to turn into a big inning by his opponents. In that game, Danny Santana ill-advisedly flipped a two-out grounder to Brian Dozier for a force play, but the ball was dropped, a run scored, and the inning continued. Then Miguel Cabrera turned the mistake into a disaster, smacking a three-run homer.
On Friday, it happened again -- except for the ending. Gibson induced Austin Jackson to hit a two-out grounder, but shortstop Edwin Nunez booted it for an error, extending the inning. Up strode Cabrera, again with two runners on, again with a chance to ruin Gibson's night.
Cabrera must have remembered it, too, because his first swing was a mighty one, but the ball was fouled away. Two pitches later, Cabrera tapped a sinker back to Gibson and the disaster was averted.
The two-time MVP had another chance to get Gibson, and this escape was even more impressive. In the fifth inning, after Alex Avila singled and Gibson failed to handle Kevin Romine's bunt, the Tigers loaded the bases with one out and their best hitter at the plate. Pitching coach Rick Anderson visited the mound, and his advice must have worked; after taking a ball, Cabrera chopped a pitch to Trevor Plouffe, who converted it into an inning-rescuing double play.
All that drama was necessary, because Tigers' lefthander Drew Smyly was just as effective in taming the Twins' offense, which had been averaging 5.3 runs per game in June. Minnesota managed only four hits, and mounted only one serious threat against Smyly, who struck out Kendrys Morales and got Oswaldo Arcia to pop to short, leaving the bases loaded in the third.
Smyly made only one mistake, and that to the No. 9 hitter. He left a 1-2 curveball high and over the plate in the third inning to Eduardo Escobar, who turned on the pitch and lofted it on top of the bullpen roof in left field, his second home run of the season. It wasn't much of a cushion, but Gibson made it work, recording his second straight victory and extending his scoreless innings streak to 15 straight. His ERA is down to 3.55 now, lowest it's been since May 5.
So effective was Gibson in critical situations, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire even allowed him to pitch out of a seventh-inning jam, with his pitch count headed toward a career-high 110. Avila knocked a one-out double to deep center field, and Tigers manager Brad Ausmus sent former Twins outfielder Torii Hunter to the plate, with three-time all-star Ian Kinsler on deck.
But Gibson retired both on routine grounders to third, and Casey Fien and Glen Perkins did the rest, pitching an inning apiece to preserve the Twins' sixth shutout of the season. The Twins, who have won three straight games, are now just one game below .500.
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