Twins’ Bailey Ober faces Tigers, aiming for back-to-back wins

MLB

Right-hander Bailey Ober, coming off his first major league victory, will try to give the Minnesota Twins a series win when he starts Saturday afternoon against the Detroit Tigers in Minneapolis.

The 6-foot-9 Ober (1-1, 4.85 ERA) allowed just two hits and three walks while tossing five shutout innings Monday in an 8-5 win over the American League Central-leading Chicago White Sox. He struck out seven.

It was only the second time in seven big league starts that Ober completed five innings.

The Twins have brought Ober along slowly this season to try and avoid the potential of injury after he didn’t pitch in 2020, when he wasn’t part of the team’s 60-man player pool. He threw a season-high 93 pitches against Chicago and got Yoan Moncada to line out to right with runners on first and third to end the fifth and preserve a 3-0 lead.

“We extended him a little bit and allowed him to, one, learn a little something, probably in the process, but also (to) go out there and just get outs,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “There have been times where we may have gotten him out of the game previously, but we wanted to test him a little bit and see what he could do, and he passed the test.”

Ober said of earning the win, “It was definitely a special moment. Watching the game, I was getting a little nervous, a little goosebumps, but these guys — the hitters did really well and we slammed the door at the end.”

Saturday will be Ober’s eighth career appearance against Detroit. The Twins, who have won 11 of the past 14 meetings between the teams, have won the first two games of the four-game series, including a 4-2 victory on Friday night.

Max Kepler hit a two-run triple off reliever Ian Krol to highlight a four-run six inning for Minnesota. Kepler, who has seven hits over the past five games, hit a sinking liner to left that went under the glove of a diving Robbie Grossman and rolled to the fence, driving in Trevor Larnach and Alex Kirilloff with what proved to be the winning runs.

“It is the classic results-oriented deal where if he comes up with a great catch we’re getting a lot of momentum coming off the field,” Detroit manager AJ Hinch said of Grossman’s do-or-die attempt. “Instead it was a punch in the gut and they got to keep the inning alive there.”

Grossman said, “It was one of those plays where I thought I could catch it. I felt like I was right there. I came up short, and I put that on myself.”

Grossman did atone a little for the miscue in the eighth inning when he blasted a two-run homer into the second deck in left to cut the deficit to 4-2. However, the Twins then brought in Hansel Robles to get the final five outs, including a game-ending 5-4-3 double play, to earn his ninth save of the season.

Hinch said right-hander Kyle Funkhouser (3-0, 2.59 ERA), who actually warmed up briefly during the Friday night loss, will make his second career start as the opener in a bullpen game for the Tigers on Saturday.

Funkhouser has faced the Twins once in his career. On Sept. 6, 2020, he picked up his first career victory in the Tigers’ 10-8 win, allowing one run over two innings, a home run by the since departed Eddie Rosario.

–Field Level Media

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