Unforgettable cuts both ways.
Minnesota rookie Kyle Gibson, a Mizzou alum, made his major-league debut Saturday by working six strong innings in a 6-2 victory over the Royals at Target Field.
That certainly qualifies.
But it was overshadowed, at least in historical terms, by a horrific outing from Royals starter Wade Davis, who set what appears to be a major-league record for the most pitches thrown while recording three or fewer outs.
Now that is unforgettable. And not in the way Nat King Cole once crooned. (If you need to ask, can’t help you.)
Just know Davis threw 69 pitches prior to his departure in the second inning with no outs and the bases loaded. The stat-packed website www.baseball-reference.com, an industry standard, contends that is a record.
“Just off,” Davis said. “No release point at all. I was trying to throw it down the middle of the plate, and it was running off. A lot of movement right to left. It was cutting and riding.
“It was just one I want to forget real quick.”
The previous high number of pitches for three outs or fewer is thought to be 67 by Blue Jays reliever Scott Brow in a 13-1 loss to Boston on June 21, 1994 in Toronto. The previous worst for a starter is believed to be, alas…
Royals right-hander Brian Bannister on Aug. 17, 2008, in a 16-5 loss at Yankee Stadium. Bannister threw 65 pitches while allowing 10 runs on 10 hits and three walks in one inning plus six batters.
The damage against Davis, 4-6, was — if it means anything — considerably less.
He permitted five runs in a 53-pitch first inning, which included four hits and three walks. The Twins pinned another run on his line in the second before Will Smith ended the inning.
“Just a bad start,” catcher Salvy Perez said. “That happens with pitchers. He’s been good, but he had a bad day.”
Davis had limited opponents to six earned runs in 242/3 innings over his previous four starts.
“I tried a bunch of different things,” he said. “I tried slowing it down and speeding it up. Different arm angles. It’s just one of those that sucks.
“I was coming off a couple of good outings. I was feeling real confident. Then I come out and put the team in a bad spot right off the bat when we wanted to get a couple of wins here and win the series.”
The Royals need a victory Sunday to split the four-game series.
The last pitcher to throw more pitches in a first inning than Davis was Houston’s Wandy Rodriguez, who threw 57 on Aug. 7, 2007, at Atlanta. Rodriguez went on to pitch through the fourth.
“I’ve never seen a 50-pitch inning,” manager Ned Yost said. “But then again, we don’t really have a long guy. I’m trying to see if I can get him at least through three. But that didn’t happen.”
Gibson, 25, permitted two runs and eight hits over six innings in his much-anticipated debut. He was the Twins’ first-round pick in the 2009 draft, but Tommy John surgery in September 2011 delayed his arrival.
“I’m just soaking it in right now,” Gibson said. “I’m sure in a couple days I’ll get the (scouting) report about the Yankees. Right now I’m just going to enjoy this one with my family.’’
Reliever Brian Duensing inherited a four-run lead from Gibson to start the seventh. Duensing worked a scoreless inning but gave way to Casey Fien after starting the eighth by walking Eric Hosmer.
Fien gave up one-out singles to Salvy Perez and Mike Moustakas, which brought the tying run to the plate. But Lorenzo Cain and Miguel Tejada struck out.
Twins closer Glen Perkins closed out the game with a scoreless ninth in a non-save situation.
The Royals made it fairly easy for Gibson in a 12-pitch first inning. Alex Gordon tried to ambush a first-pitch fastball but flied out to left, and Alcides Escobar grounded to short on an 0-1 fastball.
Hosmer lined a single off the right-field wall. The ball was hit so hard, and Chris Parmelee got a true carom, that Hosmer had to hold at first. Billy Butler then struck out.
“It looked like he was pounding righties in with the slider and sinker,” Gordon said. “He was kind of staying away with us (lefties) by using his change-up and fastball. He was hitting his spots.”
History then cued up Davis’ nightmare.
He retired the first hitter, Clete Thomas, before issuing one-out walks to Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer. Both scored when center fielder Jarrod Dyson couldn’t come up with Justin Morneau’s deep fly.
It required more than a routine effort, but Dyson retreated on the ball and appeared to have a play. He just leaped and missed the ball. The result was a two-run double.
“That’s got to be caught,” Dyson said. “Anything that hits my glove I feel has to be caught. It was hit pretty good, but there’s no excuse for not catching it. I’ve got to come down with it. No doubt about it.”
Trevor Plouffe followed with a 413-foot boomer over the left-center wall for a 4-0 lead.
Parmelee drew a two-out walk and went to third on Jamey Carroll’s single off Tejada’s glove at second before Pedro Florimon flicked an RBI single into center for a 5-0 lead.
Davis finally ended a 53-pitch inning by striking out Thomas, who probably needs to buy a round after making the first and last outs.
“I never felt fatigued,” Davis said, “but I think it made it even harder to find a release point. At that point, I just wanted to ball to be (hit) at somebody. Get an out somewhere.”
The Twins piled back on Davis in the second inning. Dozier led off with a single before Davis loaded the bases by walking Mauer and Morneau. And that was it.
Smith replaced Davis and surrendered a sacrifice fly to Plouffe for a 6-0 lead. Smith then ended the inning by turning Oswaldo Arcia’s hopper into a double play.
The Royals got their only two runs after Dyson opened the third with an infield single. Escobar and Hosmer produced one run with one-out singles before Perez made it 6-2 with a two-out single.
Smith provided the Royals with a comeback opportunity by holding the Twins in check through the sixth. He pitched five scoreless innings while striking out six and walking none.
It wasn’t to be. Even unforgettable has its limits.