By Noah Johnson

Twins’ pitcher Kyle Gibson overcame past struggles against the Rays en route to a 5-1 victory at Target Field Thursday, his second straight win at home this season.

The two-hour rain delay didn’t seem to phase Gibson, who picked up nine strikeouts over eight innings, his longest time on the mound this season.

Gibson had a shaky first inning, giving up two early hits to Rays’ LF Jake Bauers and C Wilson Ramos, but was able to get out unscathed after striking out DH Ji-Man Choi.

From then on, the veteran Twins pitcher commanded the mound, sitting down 22 of 24 batters from the second through seventh innings. Gibson began to stumble in the eighth inning, giving up his only run of the night to a sacrifice fly hit by CF Kevin Kiermaier. He left the mound after eight innings, giving up only five hits and one earned run during his stint on the mound.

The Twins’ victory on Thursday pushes them to 7.5 games behind Cleveland in the AL Central with three games remaining until the All-Star Break.

Despite the Indians carrying such a large lead into the break, Gibson believes the Twins’ are capable are closing the division gap in the second half of the season.

“We feel like were a pretty good team, and when we put it together we have a chance to win nine of out 10 or 10 out of 11 [games],” he said.

Gibson (4-6) said he is satisfied in the way both he and the club are closing out the first half of the season.

“I think everyone in here wants to have success,” Gibson said. “I think there are spots that could have been better early on; unfortunately I got myself in too many jams and cost my team a couple wins, but here lately I feel like I’ve been able to execute pitches and throw the ball a little better.”

He said the All-Star break will give the team a new look on the season.

“Our job is to make the decisions tough on the front office and give us enough time as possible to get back and lead the division,” Gibson said. “I feel like here after the All-Star break we have a really good chance to be one or two games back and make those decisions tough on them.”

Twins catcher Bobby Wilson said bad luck has plagued Gibson despite solid performances since the start of the season.

“He’s been good the whole year, he’s had bad luck,” Wilson said. “He could easily have 10 wins at this point; it’s just kinda he pitched really well we just didn’t hit for him and a couple times we lost late but overall he’s been really good.”

This win also marks a career milestone for manager Paul Molitor, who is now tied for sixth-most wins in franchise history alongside Billy Gardner with 268. Gardner coached the Twins’ from 1981-1986 and finished third in the 1984 AL Manager of the Year vote.

The Twins are now 7-3 in their last 10 games, and they look to continue their impressive homestand on Friday against the Rays at 7:10 p.m.