Twins even series with Tigers thanks to a series of sacrifice flies

Nothing has come easy for the Twins during their miserable start to the season, so why would a four-run lead be any different when they were on the verge of ending their five-game losing streak?

Bailey Ober was magnificent in his second consecutive start against the Detroit Tigers, giving up two hits and one run across six efficient innings. The offense delivered three runs through sacrifice flies, just the fourth time in the past decade they have had that many in a game.

But it took reliever Cole Sands stranding two runners in scoring position in the seventh inning and Matt Bowman leaving another runner on base in the eighth to secure a 4-3 victory at Target Field, the club's second home victory of the season.

"It was a game we really had to work for," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said.

Ober did everything he could to end the losing streak himself. He retired his first 13 batters and 17 of his first 18. He didn't reach a three-ball count until he issued a two-out walk in the sixth inning, completing his first five innings in 58 pitches.

Matt Vierling provided the Tigers with their first baserunner when he hit a first-pitch fastball to center field for a single in the fifth inning. Ober, who drew swings and misses with all five pitches in his repertoire, responded by striking out his next four batters.

"I just watched my last outing and saw what they were swinging at, what they didn't swing at, what was working for me," said Ober, who threw a first-pitch strike to 17 of his 21 batters. "Then I tried to mix that up a little more. Not be as heavy on certain pitches and have an overall mix. I felt like my fastball was a little better today."

The Tigers tried two distinct approaches against Ober in their first two times through the lineup. They swung early in counts in their first at-bats against him, and it led to weak contact, including a four-pitch third inning. In Ober's second time through the lineup, when they showed more patience, he struck out six of their nine batters.

Since a disastrous first start at Kansas City to begin the season, Ober has given up eight hits and two runs in his past 17 innings (1.06 ERA) with 16 strikeouts.

"I had a coach in college that used to say, "You're only as good as your last outing,' " Ober said. "I've been following that a lot recently, but after you have that first outing, you think about it, like, 'Oh, you don't want to be known as that.' I looked at it a little bit and, in my head, I've been thinking, 'You're only as good as your next outing.' "

BOXSCORE: Twins 4, Detroit 3

MLB standings

The Twins were hitless in 10 at-bats with runners in scoring position, but they found a script to create runs. Byron Buxton opened the second inning with a double to left field, advanced to third base on a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly.

In the third inning, Austin Martin pulled a leadoff double to left field, moved to third on a groundout and scored on another sac fly.

Two Detroit errors led to a pair of Twins runs in the fifth inning — Trevor Larnach lofted a third sacrifice fly after he fouled seven consecutive pitches from Tigers starter Reese Olson — and the Twins needed them. Javier Báez hit an RBI double in the seventh inning off Sands, but the Twins reliever retired the next two batters with the tying run at second base.

"The glamorous way to win is to hit the ball over the fence and pound the ball all around the park," Baldelli said. "On a day like today, it's not that easy to do that. In April and the central part of the country, it's not that easy to do that. You have to put the ball in play. You have to get runners on base, get them in scoring position and then fight to put the ball in play."