Bailey Ober pitched four shutout innings for the Twins on Monday night against San Francisco, giving up only one hit in a span of 13 batters.
One big problem, though: Those shutout innings were the second through the fifth. With the Target Field crowd barely having time to find their seats, the Giants already had a four-run lead in the top of the first before Ober could record an out.
That bad start, plus an absence of timely hitting from the home team, doomed the Twins to a 4-1 loss to the Giants in the opener of a three-game series in front of an announced crowd of 16,627.
"It's not the way you ever want to start a ballgame, both from his perspective and from a team perspective,'' Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said after his team lost for the fifth time in seven games and fell to 25-23.
San Francisco (23-24) used its pitching strategy well, with opener John Brebbia throwing a 1-2-3 first before being replaced by lefty Sean Manaea (2-2), who gave up no runs and three hits while striking out eight over 3⅔ innings. Tristan Beck worked 2⅔ innings, Tyler Rogers two-thirds and Scott Alexander one for the save.
The Twins, who had only four hits, struck out 16 times — adding to their MLB-leading strikeout total — and went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position, scored their only run on Kyle Garlick's leadoff homer to left off Beck in the eighth.
"We just couldn't get anything going when the time came,'' Baldelli said. "We got some guys on, we had a few baserunners, a few good at-bats here and there. Not nearly enough today.''
The issues started right away for Ober (3-1), who opened the game by walking LaMonte Wade Jr. and Mike Yastrzemski before J.D. Davis lined a shot over Willi Castro's head in left field to score Wade. Up came cleanup hitter Michael Conforto, who blasted a three-run homer to center for a 4-0 Giants lead.
"I was having trouble getting ahead of those guys — especially the first two batters,'' Ober said. "If I could redo it, I would re-face those batters and try to get in the [strike] zone a whole lot better than I did.''
Another walk to Blake Sabol followed before Ober recorded his first out, getting Casey Schmitt to ground out softly. Patrick Bailey grounded out to second and Brandon Crawford struck out as Ober suffered no further damage.
Ober would settle down, but his teammates' bats couldn't get going.
• In the second inning, Donovan Solano — pinch-hitting against Manaea for the lefthanded-hitting Edouard Julien — laced a leadoff single to left. Manaea retired the next three Twins in order, capped by Giants second baseman Brett Wisely making a diving stop of a Joey Gallo grounder and throwing him out at first.
• In the third, Manaea issued a one-out walk to Christian Vázquez before striking out Garlick. Carlos Correa singled to right, putting runners at first and second, but Byron Buxton flied out to center, ending the threat.
• In the fourth, the Twins got a leadoff walk from Solano, but Manaea got Kyle Farmer to pop out to second, then struck out Castro and Gallo looking.
• The Twins finally seemed to have Manaea on the ropes in the fifth when Garlick drew a two-out walk and Correa drove a double to left, putting runners on second and third. Giants manager Gabe Kapler pulled Manaea in favor of Beck. Buxton jumped on Beck's first pitch, grounding it to third. Schmitt's throw beat Buxton to first, and the threat was over.
• After Garlick homered in the eighth and Beck hit Buxton with a pitch, Kepler pulled Beck in favor of Tyler Rogers. The righthander walked Solano to put runners on first and second but struck out Farmer swinging and Castro looking to end the inning.
"We need to have more good swings, more good at-bats than what we're seeing,'' Baldelli said. "It's a little frustrating, but what are we going to do right now about it? … It's a totally new situation tomorrow, and we have to attack it."