Max Kepler and the Minnesota Twins are going into the All-Star break playing their best baseball.
Kepler hit the first grand slam by the Twins this season, one of their four homers in a 15-5 win Sunday at the AL-leading Texas Rangers. While still in last place in the AL, Minnesota has won seven of its last nine games.
”We always talk about trusting the process, but when you get good results and win games, you understand how enjoyable it is to go out there and compete and come out and win games,” manager Paul Molitor said. ”I’d like to think that these guys are hungry to win as many games going forward. That’s kind of an understatement. It should be the mindset all the time.”
Minnesota (32-56) won three of four at Texas after taking the last two games of its home series against the Rangers the previous weekend.
Kepler’s slam with two outs in the fifth off A.J. Griffin (3-1) put the Twins up 6-0. It was the first career grand slam for Kepler, and seventh homer in his last 20 games.
”We’re just having fun. Everybody’s laughing before the game, enjoying themselves as much as they can. Picking each other up,” Kepler said. ”When you have fun like that, you forget about the bad at-bats and all the negative swings you take or whatever it is.”
Kennys Vargas hit a towering shot to center in the fourth for the game’s first run. Eduardo Escobar and Brian Dozier added back-to-back homers in a seven-run seventh for the Twins.
Minnesota has hit 29 homers the last 15 games, and the Twins’ 140 runs since June 18 are the most in the majors.
Tommy Milone (2-2) struck out three and walked three. The left-hander was out of the game after walking Adrian Beltre to start the sixth, and Ryan Rua promptly grounded into a double play against reliever Taylor Rogers.
Texas (54-36) still has the AL’s best record but has lost nine of 12. Its AL West lead has dwindled from 10 games to 5 1/2 over Houston, still the largest ever for the Rangers at the break, but their smallest since June 14.
”There are points in the season where they don’t look so well, don’t feel so well. Today capped all that off. Hopefully, that’s the bottom,” Texas manager Jeff Banister said. ”There’s some times when you’re not playing well, you kind of hope for a rainout. We get a four-day rainout.”
Minnesota matched its season high with 18 hits after also having 18 in the series opener Thursday night. Robbie Grossman, Eddie Rosario and Kurt Suzuki, the Nos. 6-8 batters, each had three hits, and No. 9 batter Escobar had two hits.
”It’s great to score 15 runs. It’s a good way to end the half,” Grossman said. ”We’ve been playing some good baseball. We’ll recharge in the next couple of days and get back after it.”