Donaldson's HR keys Motown makeup win

Twins third baseman's 21st jack caps 3-run 4th, backs Ober's strong start

August 30th, 2021

DETROIT -- There are still many reasons to cheer amid a frustratingly disappointing season for the Twins, and has had a hand in those positives more often than not.

Many have offered that Donaldson is having one of the best years of his career, and he added to the hype on Monday afternoon with a monster two-run homer during Minnesota’s 3-2 win over the Tigers at Comerica Park.

“We hit the ball on the barrel, exactly the way you would want to do it, a handful of times today,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We didn’t put up the runs that we would hope, with those kinds of swings, but we swung the bat fine today.”

Jorge Polanco, the focus of the team’s newest creative endeavor, floated a single over second baseman Harold Castro in the frame to score Byron Buxton for the Twins’ first run. During his pregame Zoom chat with reporters, Baldelli sported a baby blue T-shirt with a silhouette of Polanco -- who’s been red-hot with a bat lately -- above the words “Hip Hip Jorge!”

Polanco had the swag to back him, but Donaldson certainly drew the biggest applause on the next play, connecting with a Casey Mize sinker that drifted back across the plate and driving it a Statcast-projected 436 feet to straightaway center for his 21st home run of the season.

"He's a guy that has been an elite hitter in this league for a very long time,” Baldelli said. “He's done it playing third base every day, now he's swinging the bat at an elite level as a DH for a period of time.

“I think the common denominator there is he's an excellent hitter, and probably anywhere you put him, he's going to go out and have very good at-bats, barrel balls up like we saw today, and have success.”

Monday’s game was a makeup of a July 16 contest that was postponed due to inclement weather, and the Twins zoomed in and out of town nearly before the Tigers even knew what hit them.

Who hit them, however, was a familiar foe: Donaldson -- who is batting .333 (13-for-39) with four doubles, four homers, 10 RBIs, 11 runs scored and 12 walks in 13 games against the Tigers this season -- added a two-out double in the sixth to finish the day 2-for-4.

Donaldson has reached base in 12 of those 13 matchups.

"I feel like I've been able to give regular at-bats here for the last couple of weeks, so that definitely helped," Donaldson said. "And for me to have some feel mechanically-wise for what's going on, there's definitely been some improvement with that.

"Right around the first day in Boston [on Aug. 24] was when I really started feeling like I was getting into some good patterns. ... For me to be able to go in there and repeat the moves I want to make has been important."

The veteran slugger gave his team a 3-1 edge that it was able to ride out thanks to another sharp outing from Bailey Ober, who limited Detroit to a pair of runs on five hits and zero walks, while fanning five over his six frames. The towering righty has now issued one or fewer free passes in eight consecutive starts, a stretch that’s seen him amass 40 punchouts against six walks.

Ober’s late-season rise comes at the perfect time for Minnesota, which will need to replace its entire starting rotation before the 2022 campaign and could lean heavily on Ober as a frontline guy. The 26-year-old rookie’s recent auditions have included allowing just two earned runs over the previous three starts (15 1/3 innings) entering play on Monday, a feat that coincided with a mechanical tweak to his slider that earned him an uptick in velocity.

“I’m making a lot of adjustments,” Ober said. “Earlier during the season, I was working on some mechanical issues. I felt like my arm was kind of firing out a little too early, right before release, so I was missing a lot of pitches either too high or arm-side with the fastball.

“Right now, I’m kind of just staying through my delivery and really focusing on driving right toward home plate, and I feel like I’m able to get my location back, and that’s just been allowing my offspeed to play a little bit bigger part of that.”

Ober’s slider touched 85.9 mph, a nice jump from his Aug. 6 outing -- his final appearance before the tweak -- where the pitch lived in the high 70s. He earned 11 total swings and misses in the win.