Bailey Ober raised his fist ever so slightly and pumped it. Then, the starter screamed into his glove.
The show of emotion from the rookie came after he had worked himself into a two-out jam in the fifth inning, bringing the game-tying run to the plate, and then out of it, as a long fly ball off the bat of Yoán Moncada settled in Max Kepler’s glove in right field.
The Twins had lefty Caleb Thielbar warming up, but instead opted to show their faith in the rookie, even as his pitch count climbed, and he rewarded them. That final out made a winner out of Ober for the first time in his major league career. Ober twirled five scoreless innings in the Twins’ 8-5 win over the White Sox on Monday night at Target Field.
It was a dominant performance after the toughest start of his young career against the very same team less than a week earlier. Ober struck out seven batters, matching a career high, including the first three White Sox (49-35) batters he faced — Tim Anderson, Moncada and José Abreu — in the game.
And his first career win couldn’t have come without a little help from his friends — particularly Kepler and Taylor Rogers.
Kepler, who entered the day hitting .167 with 17 strikeouts in 11 games since coming off the injured list on June 18, added two home runs in the win. Kepler’s two-run home run in the second inning gave the Twins (35-48) a lead and he took his second home run, which gave the Twins a cushion in the eighth, to the opposite field.
After homering on Sunday, Kepler has now hit three in two games and has a hit in his past three games. Kepler drove in three of the Twins’ runs in the game, and while he was helping boost the offense, Rogers was helping protect the team’s lead.
After Ober’s departure, Thielbar served up a towering home run to Abreu in the sixth. An inning later, things started to unravel, as a pair of Twins relievers — Thielbar and Tyler Duffey — were tagged for a combined four runs in the seventh inning to make it 6-5.
Rogers struck out a pair of batters in the seventh inning before pitching over an error in a scoreless eighth inning to protect a slim advantage before the Twins tacked on insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth.