Ober wins 1st, Kepler hits 2 homers, Twins top White Sox 8-5

MLB

MINNEAPOLIS (AP)Rookie Bailey Ober pitched five scoreless innings for his first major league victory, Max Kepler homered twice and the Minnesota Twins held off the Chicago White Sox 8-5 on Monday night.

Ober (1-1) hit the milestone in his seventh career start, with seven strikeouts and two hits and three walks allowed. In two previous turns against the White Sox, he gave up nine runs in 7 1/3 innings. This time, Ober was feted with a beer shower in the clubhouse afterward.

”He made some really good hitters look bad,” said manager Rocco Baldelli, whose trust in the rookie finishing the fifth with runners at the corners was rewarded. ”That’s a great sign.”

Kepler hit a two-run home run in the second, and a two-run triple by Nick Gordon helped the Twins build a 6-1 lead in the sixth inning against Dylan Cease (7-4).

The White Sox were more worried afterward about catcher Yasmani Grandal, whose return from a two-game absence to tightness in his left calf went sour when he hurt the muscle again on a checked swing in the sixth. Grandal hopped out of the box and writhed around in the grass before being helped off, in too much pain to finish the at-bat, and he was on crutches afterward.

”He’s playing outstanding All-Star-type baseball, and it’s just really uncertain what the diagnosis is going to be. We’re trying to be patient and wait and see,” manager Tony LaRussa said.

The White Sox have been without Eloy Jimenez all season and Luis Robert for two months.

”It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re not sitting here feeling bad for ourselves,” Cease said.

The AL Central leaders surged back with a four-run seventh, getting a two-run single by Garcia against Caleb Thielbar and a two-run triple by Yoan Moncada off Tyler Duffey.

Moncada was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a chopper to third for the first out of the inning, and then the Twins turned to their best reliever to take back control. Taylor Rogers got five outs, four by strikeout, in a superb six-batter appearance.

”That is some kind of prime-time relief pitching right there,” said manager Rocco Baldelli, who met Rogers on the mound in the eighth before letting him finish by fanning Leury Garcia.

Hansel Robles pitched a scoreless ninth for his eighth save. Kepler recorded his 10th career multihomer game when he took Ryan Burr deep in a two-run eighth that gave the Twins some room for Robles to work.

”Maybe I was trying too hard and putting too much pressure on myself,” said Kepler, who was in a 6-for-38 slide with 16 strikeouts until he homered on Sunday.

OBER AND OUT

These rivals have had a tense season on the field, if not in the standings, from rookie Yermin Mercedes angering the Twins with a home run off a 3-0 pitch from position player Willians Astudillo in May to Josh Donaldson irritating the White Sox with an insinuation that the drop in spin rate on Lucas Giolito’s pitches is tied to baseball’s crackdown on sticky substances.

The White Sox brought a 14 1/2-game lead on the last-place Twins into the series, having won eight of the first nine matchups this year by a cumulative 76-37 score, but Ober was up to the task. The 6-foot-9 right-hander set the tone by striking out the side in the first inning. He fanned Jose Abreu twice, before the slugger took Thielbar deep in the sixth for his team-leading 15th homer.

”To come out here and do what I did, and get out of jams and hold these guys to zeroes, it was big time,” Ober said.

Cease beat the Twins last week with three-hit, two-walk ball over six innings, but he didn’t have it this time. He lasted 5 1/3 innings and allowed six hits and three walks.

FULLY OPEN

With the Twins left behind in the division race and likely headed for seller mode this month before the trade deadline, the occasion was merely symbolic. Still, the gates at Target Field were open at 100% capacity for the first time since 2019, and a season-high crowd of 20,321 came out on a sweltering night that featured 10 free food stations around the ballpark for all ticketholders. The temperature at first pitch was 94 degrees.

TRAINER’S ROOM

White Sox: Seby Zavala will likely be fetched from Triple-A rather than Mercedes, La Russa said, for his pitch calling ability. … Moncada was back after missing three games with a bruised right hand.

Twins: DH Nelson Cruz, who was named to his seventh All-Star Game, sat out for the second straight game with a stiff neck. The injury has been exacerbated by a lingering chest cold that has come with severe coughing. Cruz was seeing a doctor before the game as a precaution. … Donaldson was also sidelined for a second straight day due to a strained right hamstring.

UP NEXT

White Sox: LHP Carlos Rodon (6-3, 2.37 ERA) will take the mound on Tuesday night, his first turn since being selected for his first All-Star Game and his last before the break.

Twins: RHP Jose Berrios (7-2, 3.52 ERA) will pitch the middle game of the series. Berrios is 12-2 with a 2.77 ERA in 18 starts facing the White Sox.

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