CLEVELAND -- In what was the biggest start of his three-year career, Kyle Gibson came through in a big way for the Twins to help them to a much-needed 7-1 win in the first game of a doubleheader against the Indians on Wednesday at Progressive Field.
Gibson tossed six scoreless innings while tying a career-high with nine strikeouts. It helped the Twins stay 1 1/2 games back for the second American League Wild Card spot behind the Astros, who have a half-game lead on the Angels.
"I don't know long I'm going to pitch in this game but I'd love to have the reputation of being able to pitch in big games and have success in big games," Gibson said. "I don't know that this starts that reputation at all because it's just the regular season but it's fun to pitch in big games that mean something. It's fun to execute pitches under pressure."
Gibson entered with a 6.99 ERA in six career outings against the Indians, including lasting a season-low 2 2/3 innings last time out in a loss to Cleveland on Thursday. But he said he didn't let that affect him.
"For me, it wasn't motivation to try to beat the Indians or get back at them," Gibson said. "It was really more motivation to give my teammates the effort they deserved. It was a bad time for me to have my shortest start of the year and it was unfortunate, but for my teammates, they're in the playoff hunt and they deserved some zeros."
It could be the last start of the season for Gibson (11-11, 3.84 ERA), but the Twins are strongly considering using him on short rest on Sunday against the Royals in the regular-season finale if the game has postseason implications. Gibson, who hasn't started on short rest since college, said he'd be ready to take on that challenge.
"[Manager Paul Molitor] has mentioned it and I'm open to it," Gibson said. "All he has to do is tell me I'm starting on Sunday and I'll be ready. I'll adjust the game plan and do whatever I have to do."
The victory also helped the Twins to their 82nd win, which guarantees them a winning record for the first time since 2010. Minnesota had lost at least 92 games in each of the previous four seasons. But Gibson said the Twins have loftier goals down the stretch than just finishing the year above .500.
"I think it's significant," Gibson said. "No doubt about it. The thing about this club is we don't downplay a win. We celebrate each win obviously. Everybody knows about the dance parties. But it's not a smoke-and-mirrors thing. We want to celebrate each win. To guarantee ourselves a winning season is big for us. But we have a lot of other things going on."