The final few weeks of the first half werent ideal for Kyle Gibson.
The Minnesota Twins starter pitched out of the bullpen against the Tampa Bay Rays on June 27, went six innings against the Oakland As on July 3 and pitched the first inning against the Texas Rangers on short rest July 7.
A week later his schedule should be back to normal, and not a moment too soon.
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Gibson is scheduled to start the first game of the second half Friday: Game 1 of a key series with the resurgent Cleveland Indians, as the Twins look to reestablish their once-massive division lead, currently down to 5 1/2 games.
The Indians, below .500 and 11 1/2 games back as recently as June 2, have stormed back to relevance over the past month. Theyre 22-9 (.710) since June 1, the second-highest winning percentage in the majors over that span.
The Twins lead MLB with a combined .833 OPS, but the Indians offense has been better of late, with a .835 OPS since June 1, third in the American League over that span and just ahead of Minnesota (.807).
His ERA is up slightly (4.09) year-over-year, but his strikeout rate is at an all-time high: 8.9 per nine innings, up from a career-high 8.2 K/9 a year ago.
Gibson has been adept at pitching his way out of trouble, particularly against right-handed batters.
He has induced 26 double plays against righties this season in 106 opportunities. Its the highest such rate in MLB at 24.5%, well above the league average of 11.6%.
His slider has been key. Gibson has a 27.9% swinging strike rate with the pitch, seventh amongst pitchers whove thrown at 200 of them this season.
— The rest of the division hasnt posed much of a threat this year: The Twins are a combined 16-8 against Chicago, Detroit and Kansas City, while the Indians are 18-12.
— Both teams are keeping their pitch counts down. Indians pitchers are averaging just 16.35 pitches per inning this season, second in the AL, while the Twins are averaging 16.46, which ranks fourth.