The Minnesota Twins beat the Kansas City Royals 17-0 on Saturday night at Target Field to even the series heading into Sunday’s rubber game, and it wasn’t all Onelki Garcia’s fault.

He didn’t give Nate Karns thoracic outlet syndrome.

He didn’t impinge Danny Duffy’s elbow or pass out while intoxicated in a Burger King parking lot.

He also didn’t purchase his own plane ticket to Minneapolis after posting a 5.04 ERA at Triple-A Omaha, with a 1.55 WHIP and nearly four walks per nine innings.

But when Garcia took the mound at Target Field, he was in trouble from the word “go.” He threw just 23 pitches, but by the time he was done, the Twins had scored four runs and made just one out.

For an offense that has had trouble hitting lefties all season long, the Twins wasted little time jumping the 28-year-old Cuban, who had made just four previous appearances in the big leagues which had gone much like this one (9.00 ERA, 2.43 WHIP).  

Brian Dozier fell behind 0-2 and coaxed a walk to lead off the first. Joe Mauer followed with a booming double to center. Byron Buxton — in his return to the lineup — hit a stand-up triple to the gap in right-center, and just 12 pitches into the game, the Twins had a 2-0 lead and were primed for more. Jorge Polanco followed with a booming double to the other gap, and came home to score on a Mitch Garver single to left one batter later to chase Garcia from the game.

For an encore performance, the Twins took it another step in the second, scoring six runs while chasing yet another Royals pitcher from the game — Andres Machado — before an out was recorded in the inning.

At one point, the Royals had thrown 84 pitches, gotten four outs and were trailing 10-0. It was that kind of night for the Royals, as manager Ned Yost started replacing some of his starters in the third inning, as Paulo Orlando took over for Lorenzo Cain and Raul Mondesi took over for Alcides Escobar at short. Drew Butera took over at first base and Jorge Bonifacio took over in right in the fourth, while Salvador Perez led off the fifth inning with a single, and was promptly replaced by Cam Gallagher.

“It was a nice response to come back after we came up a bit short last night,” manager Paul Molitor said. “It was one of those games where you could get everyone a ball tonight, because it was a team effort across the board, up and down the lineup.”

Mauer had four hits in four innings and was lifted for Kennys Vargas in the top of the seventh. After hitting .336/.405/.458 in August, the rejuvenated first baseman is now up to .303/.384/.417 on the season. That .801 OPS is the first time Mauer finished a day with an OPS over .800 since Aug. 16, 2016, against the Atlanta Braves.

Oddly enough, he was hitting a nearly-identical .284/.384/.417 after that game.

There were stars up and down the Twins lineup, as one might expect on a day when the team scores 17 runs on 14 hits with nine walks. Mauer paced the team in hits, while Buxton went 3-for-5 to raise his season line to .253/.313/.409. Polanco had a pair of hits as well, but no Twins hitter shined brighter than Eduardo Escobar, who hit a pair of home runs and also added a triple for good measure. Escobar drove in six runs, scored three and upped his season line to a respectable .253/.313/.423.

All that offense can make the starting pitcher easy to forget, but Kyle Gibson was tremendous, as he tossed six shutout innings, scattering five hits with five strikeouts and no walks. Gibson only threw 81 pitches, but got 10 swinging strikes and lowered his season ERA to 5.33. After posting a 3.90 ERA in August (12 earned runs in 27.2 innings with 28 strikeouts), it’s fair to say Gibson got the season’s final month off with a flourish.

“As much as those crooked numbers are good early in the game, I think the zeroes that follow are just as important,” Molitor said of Gibson’s effort. “A lot of them were pretty quick. We got back off the field pretty quick and got a chance to hit again.”

The offense tacked on seven more runs the rest of the way — on a three-run home run from Dozier as well as solo and three-run homers from Escobar — while Taylor Rogers, Buddy Boshers and Nik Turley each tossed scoreless innings to finish off the highest-scoring shutout in club history.

Notes and Quotes

  • The win pushed the Twins’ run differential to plus-1 for the season. They had been negative for nearly the entire season prior to Saturday night.
  • Garver’s single in the first inning plated his first MLB RBI.
  • Mauer is on a season-high 11-game hitting streak.
  • Buxton has three multi-hit games over his last seven, per the game notes.
  • Molitor on Gibson’s recent trend: “I think each one that he goes out there and adds to the number…the first one was good. He’s backed that up now three in a row. He’s gotta feel good. I like the way he was able to go out and do some of the  things we talked about pregame. He used the fastball a lot early, but he had really good command of his breaking ball and got some chases down and in to left-handers.”

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