Saturday, September 23, 2017

Twins win, draw closer to AL Wildcard as pursuers all lose

Gibson's solid outing helped Twins draw closer to playoffs
It's become monotonous to call them the "surprising" Minnesota Twins. After all, it's been five months now that Paul Molitor's club has been a solid contender in the American League.

The Twins have been in control of the second AL Wildcard berth for weeks now. Last night behind an excellent start on the mound from Kyle Gibson and the timely hitting of Brian Dozier, Byron Buxton, and Max Kepler, they drew closer to clinching a place in the postseason.

Minnesota downed the depleted and demoralized host Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park by a 7-3 score. Meanwhile, their nearest pursuers in the playoff race all lost. The LA Angels were shut out by Houston 3-0, the Texas Rangers dropped a 4-1 decision at Oakland, and the Kansas City Royals were edged 7-6 by the Chicago White Sox.

The result of all that Friday night action is that the 'Magic Number' has dropped to just 6 for Minnesota to clinch the franchise' first playoff berth since being swept out of the ALDS in both 2009 and 2010.

Gibson went seven strong innings, allowing three earned runs on five hits. The 29-year old right-hander struck out six and walked two in raising his record to the 12-10 mark. Those dozen wins leave him one shy of his career high of 13 set back in the 2014 season.

"These two games were big for us and the next two are as well," Gibson said per MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger after the Twins second straight victory in Detroit. "Coming off a rough series in New York, we definitely wanted to get one or two there and getting zero hurt a little bit. But these games were big to get the ship going in the right direction and hopefully we can keep it going."




Kepler banged his 19th home run of the season, a solo shot, in the top of the 3rd inning off Tigers starter Daniel Norris (4-8) to tie the game.

After falling behind again 2-1, Buxton lined a two-run double to left in the top of the 4th to push the Twins on top. He then scored on a base hit by Kepler, making it a 4-2 lead for Minnesota after four innings.

Run-scoring hits by Eduardo Escobar in the top of the 5th and Robbie Grossman in the 6th stretched that lead out to a 6-2 margin. In the bottom of the 6th, Ian Kinsler tagged Gibson for his 21st homer of the year, the solo shot cutting the Twins lead down to 6-3 at that point.

In the top of the 9th, Dozier got that one back by cracking his 32nd home run of the year. Matt Belisle came on to retire three of the four batters he faced in the bottom of the 9th to close out the victory.

"I think the guys played a fairly loose game," Molitor said per Bollinger. "We know we're in for a fight and these guys have played us tough the last few years, and probably dominated us in some regards. There's a lot on the line and we have to find a way to keep playing good baseball."

His team will continue the series in Motown on Saturday and Sunday. Then it's off to Cleveland for a real test against the defending AL champion Indians, who have the best record in the American League. The Twins wrap the regular season next weekend back home at Target Field with three more against the Tigers.

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