Alex Cobb outlasts Sonny Gray as Giants beat Twins in battle of aces
Michael Conforto was 2 for 5 with a go-ahead two-run home run off reliever Jorge Lopez (1-2) in the seventh inning.
MINNEAPOLIS — In a battle of aces on Tuesday, Minnesota’s Sonny Gray outdueled San Francisco’s Alex Cobb for five innings, taking a 3-0 lead into the sixth at Target Field. It wasn’t enough.
Cobb outlasted Gray, pitching long enough to pitch with a lead earned against three Twins relievers to earn the victory as the Giants beat the Twins, 4-3, in front of an announced crowd of 20,790.
Michael Conforto was 2 for 5 with a go-ahead two-run home run off reliever Jorge Lopez (1-2) in the seventh inning. Patrick Bailey and Bryce Johnson drove in runs with bases-loaded walks in the sixth.
Camilo Doval struck out the side in the ninth inning for his 13th save.
The Giants can sweep the series with a win in Wednesday’s 12:10 first pitch. The Twins have lost six of eight games and fell to one game over .500 (25-24) for the first time since they were 11-10 on April 22.
Byron Buxton hit a two-run homer in the first inning off Cobb (4-1), and Michael A. Taylor’s solo shot in the fifth sent Gray into the sixth inning with a 3-0 lead. But the Giants chipped away at their deficit, and Cobb — who started the game with a 1.94 earned-run average — kept pitching.
Gray (4-1) walked J.D. Davis to start the sixth inning, the Giants’ first base on balls, then gave up a double in the left-field gap by Michael Conforto.
After a meeting on the mound, Gray walked Mitch Haniger to load the bases with none out. Manager Rocco Baldelli replaced Gray, who started the game with an MLB-best 1.64 ERA, with left-hander Jovani Moran.
San Francisco manager Gabe Kapler countered with right-handed pinch hitters Casey Schmitt and Wilmer Flores, but Moran got Schmitt on a shallow fly to center and fanned Flores.
But Moran walked No. 8 hitter Bailey on four pitches to drive in Davis with the Giants’ first run and was pulled for Brock Stewart, who immediately walked pinch hitter Bryce Johnson to score Conforto. Stewart then fell behind leadoff hitter Lamonte Wade Jr., 2-0, before striking him out to hold the Twins’ 3-2 lead.
Cobb then retired Kirilloff, Buxton and Edouardo Julien on groundouts, and Baldelli brought right-hander Lopez in for the seventh. Thairo Estrada hit a leadoff double to right field, and after Davis was retired on a grounder to third, Conforto hit a 1-1 curveball 373 feet to the opposite field, just long enough to clear the padded wall for a 4-3 lead.
Left-hander Scott Alexander retired the top of the Twins’ order — pinch-hitter Kyle Garlick, Donovan Solano and Alex Kirilloff — on groundouts in a 1-2-3 eighth inning.
Buxton gave the Twins a 2-0 lead in the first inning. After a one-out single by Solano and strikeout by Kirilloff, Buxton took the first pitch he saw from Cobb — a 89 mph splitter on the inside of the plate — and drove it an estimated 408 feet into the ribbon board above the bullpens in left-center field.
According to StatCast, the ball left his bat at 105.7 mph.
The homer extended Buxton’s streak of reaching base safely to a career-high 23 straight games.
Taylor provided an insurance run in the fifth when he tagged Cobb for a two-out solo home run, a line drive that just made the seats in left field. But the Twins needed more.
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