Game Ober: 89-pitch complete game a David Cone-ian effort

Twins righty's ruthlessly efficient 10-K gem on par with Cone's 1999 perfect game

June 23rd, 2024

OAKLAND -- It takes a lot for the offense to become an afterthought on a day in which the Twins sent 12 men to the plate in an inning and exploded for 10 runs.

An 89-pitch complete game will do that.

became the first Twins pitcher in 19 years to throw a nine-inning complete game in fewer than 90 pitches on Saturday, a stat line made even more improbable by the fact that Ober also tied his career high with 10 strikeouts as he led the Twins to a 10-2 victory over the A's at the Coliseum.

"I looked up in about the eighth inning and he had thrown 16 balls in the game,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that in my life, and I’ve seen some exceptional pitching performances."

Just how rare, exactly, is that combination of ruthless efficiency and strikeout ability?

The only other outing of 90 or fewer pitches and 10 or more strikeouts in a nine-inning complete game since pitch counts started being tracked in 1988 was David Cone’s perfect game on July 18, 1999.

It marked the fewest pitches required for a nine-inning complete game by a Twins pitcher since Carlos Silva threw his 74-pitch complete game on May 20, 2005, one of only four other outings in the pitch tracking era in which a Twins pitcher completed nine innings on fewer than 90 pitches.

"Me and Joe [Ryan] have talked about it -- throwing a Maddux is under 100,” Ober said. “It's something we've talked about. A little personal goal to get a CG under 100 feels pretty good."

"Oh, it's so sick,” Ryan said. “It's so fun for him, and the hard work he's put in. So I think it's just awesome that he got this done today. And I think everyone could use that, him just putting the team on his back and doing it. It's [freaking] fun to watch."

Ober's outing didn’t quite fit the traditional criteria for a “Maddux” -- defined as a complete-game shutout on fewer than 100 pitches -- because Ober allowed solo homers to JJ Bleday in the first inning and Tyler Soderstrom in the second.

But following Brent Rooker’s one-out double in the fourth inning, Ober retired the final 17 A’s hitters of the game, including four consecutive strikeouts spanning the eighth and ninth innings. He threw single-digit pitches in five of his nine frames, maxing out at 13 pitches apiece in the second and eighth.

"The thing is, his stuff got better and sharper as the game went on,” said Ober's rotation mate Pablo López. “We have the iPads, and not only do they tell you the velo, but they also tell you the movement. His stuff just got bigger -- bigger in a good way -- because he kept locating it early, and placing it down whenever he needed to get it down. That's really special to see."

The Twins’ bullpen had cost the team late in three consecutive games entering Saturday -- and Baldelli had noted ahead of the game that part of the problem was that the team had constantly been playing close games, leading to a heavy reliance on those increasingly taxed relievers.

Rest assured, that didn’t become an issue again.

A seven-run second inning finally gave Minnesota the kind of very comfortable early cushion that the team's rarely had this season, when much of its offense has come in the late innings. The Twins benefited from three-hit games from Manuel Margot, Carlos Correa and Jose Miranda, and saw all nine of their starting position players reach base, of which eight recorded at least one hit.

That took all of the pressure off Ober, who was finally able to command his entire arsenal of offspeed pitches in the manner that had been lacking at points this season, throwing 70 of his 89 pitches for strikes.

There was perhaps some extra satisfaction in Ober’s first complete game since he was a redshirt junior at the College of Charleston in 2017, due to how he dealt with so many arm injuries throughout his Minor League career and as a result had his workload severely limited in shortened outings in his first two seasons as a big leaguer.

That era is long gone -- just watch him go now.

"I knew my pitch count was low just because there were a lot of fast innings,” Ober said. “But after the seventh inning, I walked past [pitching coach Pete Maki] and said, ‘I'm finishing this thing.’"