The Minnesota Twins eliminated the Toronto Blue Jays with a couple of convincing victories on Tuesday and Wednesday, and are moving on to the American League Division Series.
There, they will face a stiff test: the reigning World Series champions, the Houston Astros.
Manager Rocco Baldelli had waited until the very last minute to name the starter for Game 1, scheduled for Saturday.
Having used just Pablo Lopez and Sonny Gray, Baldelli had options: Joe Ryan and Kenta Maeda were the most likely ones.
However, he is going with a surprising option, per Twins insider Dan Hayes: Bailey Ober.
— DanHayesMLB (@DanHayesMLB) October 6, 2023
Ober will start opposite Justin Verlander.
Performance-wise, it really shouldn’t be that surprising to see Ober getting the nod, as he had a 3.43 ERA in 144.1 innings, with 29 walks and 146 strikeouts.
However, it was believed Ryan was in line to make the start given that he was the top option all season behind Lopez and Gray and he wasn’t optioned to the minors at any point of the season, as Ober was.
After returning to MLB in September, Ober had a much better 2.08 ERA and a 26/3 K/BB ratio in 21.2 frames.
The Astros offense is much scarier and dangerous than the Twins, but their rotation is a question mark after the first two guys (Verlander and Framber Valdez).
The Twins’ rotation, on the other hand, is good and deep.
Gray finished the regular season with a strong 2.79 ERA, and Lopez had a 3.66 mark and 234 strikeouts.
Both dominated in the Wild Card round.
After that, Minnesota has Ober, Ryan, Maeda, and Louie Varland as capable starting options, plus an excellent bullpen.
It should be a fun series.NEXT: Twins Veteran Shares Praise For Carlos Correa After Series Win