MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Kyle Gibson is still below .500 as a starter this season, and Byron Buxton is still barely batting a hair above .200. The baby steps they’re making, though, are positive signs for a Minnesota Twins team that needs more consistency from its younger players to stay in the division race.
Gibson (5-6) turned in his longest outing of the season, and Buxton homered and matched his career high with three hits to lead the Twins to a 5-4 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday.
Considering one started the season 0-4 before being sent to the minors and the other spent most of April a sub-.100 hitter, it’s impressive Gibson and Buxton are playing roles on one of the A.L.’s most surprising teams this year.
“I don’t feel like my stuff is that much different,” Gibson said. “I think my mindset has allowed me to execute better. I’ve gotten in situations where in the first six starts, I ended up caving and not making it out of the third, fourth, fifth inning.”
Gibson threw 6 2-3 innings to snap his three-game winless streak. He allowed two runs off five hits with a pair of walks and four strikeouts.
“I think that’s what we’re all looking for is if he keeps incrementally finding ways to trust himself and stay aggressive,” manager Paul Molitor said. “It seems when he does that, the results reflect it.”
Robbie Grossman had an RBI double off JC Ramirez (7-7) and eventually came around to score in a two-run fifth that put the Twins ahead for good. Ramirez — who allowed four runs off seven hits in five innings — also pitched tough but lost on the road for the first time since April 19 at Houston, ending his string of five straight road wins.
Ramirez and Gibson pitched evenly through the first four innings before Minnesota started the fifth with four straight hits. Buxton started things with a single and stole second before Grossman’s double down the first base line allowed the speedy outfielder to score easily.
Eddie Rosario chased Ramirez with a leadoff double in the sixth and scored on Ehire Adiranza’s second sac-fly RBI of the day, off Blake Parker. Buxton followed with his homer to make it 5-2.
“I think he just has to remember during the game all the work he puts into his practice,” Molitor said of Buxton, who left without speaking to reporters. “When you get in the game, you can’t be overthinking that thing. You just kind of have to let it fly.”
Parker had allowed only one run in his previous 25 outings.
“We’re out here to win ballgames, so we need them to use their experience and keep moving forward and hopefully they will,” manager Mike Scioscia said of his young pitchers.
The Angels pulled to 5-4 in the ninth with one out when Ehire Adrianza’s throwing error from short allowed Ben Revere to reach and Andrelton Simmons to score. Martin Maldonado hit into a double play against Brandon Kintzler to end it.
Albert Pujols homered off reliever Taylor Rogers in the eighth. It was his 12th homer of the season and first since June 17. “He’s been hitting the ball hard this week, but he got one up in the air, ball went a long way. He killed it,” Scioscia said.
Angels: Scioscia said starting RHP Matt Shoemaker (forearm) could rejoin the team after the All-Star break. He was slated to pitch three to four innings Tuesday in his first rehab start with Class-A Inland Empire.
Twins: 2B Brian Dozier felt better a day after being scratched with lower back tightness, but Molitor held him out as a precaution. “I don’t see a need to rush him back out there today,” Molitor said, adding that Dozier was available off the bench if needed.
The Angels sent starter Alex Meyer to Triple-A Salt Lake, a day after the righty allowed six hits and five earned runs in five innings. Scioscia said the team didn’t need five starters with the upcoming All-Star break and wanted to give Meyer some work in the minors. The Angels called up right-handed reliever Mike Morin to take Meyer’s spot on the roster.
Angels: Try to avoid the three-game sweep with right-hander Parker Bridwell (2-1) on the mound making his first career appearance against Minnesota. Bridwell is 1-0 with a 3.09 ERA in two games on the road this season.
Twins: Ervin Santana (10-5) faces his old team as he looks to continue his strong season. Santana is 1-3 in four career starts against the Angels, and hasn’t beaten them since July 23, 2015.
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