MLB: Old rivals face off again as A’s host Twins

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A rivalry that dates back to their college days continues Saturday afternoon as Minnesota Twins right-hander Bailey Ober and Oakland Athletics left-hander JP Sears duel for the second time in seven days, this time in California.

The A’s got the jump on the Twins in their rematch series Friday night when Shea Langeliers’ two-run home run off Jhoan Duran in the eighth inning provided the difference in a 6-5 win.

Langeliers’ blast followed Tyler Soderstrom getting hit by a pitch after the first baseman had stayed in the game — even though the Twins had switched earlier to a left-handed pitcher.

The additional playing time was by design, A’s manager Mark Kotsay said.

“(We’ve said) they would see more opportunities to stay in games and start games against left-handed pitching, which Tyler has,” Kotsay said of his platooned players, Soderstrom among them.

Oakland took a 3-1 lead on Soderstrom’s two-run double in the fifth inning against Twins lefty reliever Kody Funderburk. Earlier this season, that likely would have been a spot for a pinch hitter.

“That was a great at-bat for us at that moment,” Kotsay said.

When the clubs went head-to-head four times last week, Ober and Sears opened a Sunday doubleheader with their first duel since March 2017 in a game between South Carolina rivals The Citadel and College of Charleston.

Sears pitched Citadel into a 2-0 lead with seven shutout innings, striking out 15, before Charleston rallied for a 3-2 win. Ober hung around long enough to get the win, striking out 12 in eight innings.

Later that spring, Sears got the better of Ober off the field when the South Carolina native was the 11th-round pick of the Seattle Mariners. Ober, who grew up in North Carolina, went a round later to the Twins.

Ober (6-4, 4.81 ERA) prevailed in their first big-league duel last Sunday, limiting the A’s to one run and six hits in 6 1/3 innings in a 6-2 home win.

The right-hander has faced the A’s twice in his career and won both games, allowing just one run in 11 1/3 innings for an 0.79 ERA.

Ober has dominated teams with losing records this season, going 6-0 with a 2.64 ERA in eight outings, as opposed to 0-4 with an 8.88 ERA in six starts against teams currently at .500 or better.

The A’s enter the game at 29-49. The Twins are 41-35.

Coincidentally, Sears (4-6, 4.25) has posted nearly identical numbers against baseball’s heavyweights and lightweights, going 4-0 with a 2.31 ERA in six starts against teams under .500, but 0-6 with a 5.66 ERA in nine outings against teams .500 and above.

Sears couldn’t finish the fifth inning last Sunday, having allowed four runs and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings. He served up three home runs — two to Carlos Correa and one to Royce Lewis.

Sears has gone 0-1 with a 5.91 ERA in two career starts against Minnesota.

The Twins out-hit the A’s 10-9 on Friday, yet Sears could see a vastly different look in the rematch as Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli does his usual lineup juggling, potentially inserting regulars Byron Buxton and Max Kepler, neither of whom played in the series opener.

“Our lineup, up and down, is doing nice work,” Baldelli said. “We have a lot of guys who are swinging the bats good and we can’t get all of them in the lineup every day. It’s a really interesting, good thing for us.”

–Field Level Media

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