Gibson struggles to finish off Nationals' bats

Right-hander allows seven runs in three innings on Friday night

Gibson struggles to finish off Nationals' bats

WASHINGTON -- Kyle Gibson was one out away from escaping the first inning without conceding a run. After striking out Michael Taylor and allowing a hit to Anthony Rendon, Gibson had induced Bryce Harper to hit a dribbler back to the pitcher for a fielder's choice.

Then everything went south.

Ryan Zimmerman walked, Daniel Murphy singled in a run and Jayson Werth walked. Then Gibson drilled Danny Espinosa with a pitch in his right elbow to let in another run, before Jose Lobaton capped the rally with a two-run single. The Twins never recovered from the deficit on the way to an 8-4 loss.

"First three hitters I felt really good, felt really sharp," Gibson said. "I felt like I had carried everything over from the bullpen to the mound. And then a couple of glove-side heaters to Zimmerman really weren't even close. … I just lost it there for a little bit."

Gibson said his problems in the first inning stemmed from a lack of fastball command. Several times in the first inning, he got ahead of hitters, only to let them reach base. Rendon's single came on an 0-2 pitch, and Lobaton's RBI hit followed a first-pitch strike. Gibson also had Espinosa 0-2 before plunking him in the elbow.

"There was a lot of 0-2s that didn't turn out particularly well," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "He's having a little bit of trouble finishing when he does get into pitcher's counts."

"Anytime I needed to make a pitch with two strikes and guys on base or even guys not on base, I just didn't do it," Gibson said.

Friday marked the second consecutive start in which Gibson struggled in the first inning. Against the Angels on Sunday, the righty allowed a two-run home run to the game's fourth batter, before settling in and throwing six scoreless innings.

But unlike in that start, Gibson never really found his groove. He struggled to find his command throughout his three innings, repeating the pattern of getting ahead of hitters but being unable to put them away. Both Molitor and Gibson cited a third-inning at-bat in which Gibson got ahead of pitcher Gio Gonzalez 0-2 before conceding a sacrifice fly on a pitch right down the middle.

"Kind of a weird outing," Gibson said in summary. "After the Harper at-bat, I didn't spot one glove-side fastball the rest of the three innings. Fastball command was just really bad. Kind of weird to lose it all of a sudden and not really get it back."

Alex Putterman is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.