Max Kepler and the last-place Minnesota Twins are starting to have some fun.
They’re winning games, including three in a row against the American League’s top team.
Kepler drove in three runs with a homer and a short sacrifice fly, Tyler Duffey matched a career high with nine strikeouts and the Twins won 10-1 Thursday night in the opener of a four-game set at Texas after finishing their series at home last weekend with two straight over the Rangers.
”It’s awesome. It’s everything we ask for in a team,” Kepler said. ”Everybody’s picking each other up. No one’s trying to do too much. Guys are getting on and keeping the line moving.”
The Twins (30-55) have won five of their last six overall.
Minnesota led for good after Eduardo Nunez and Joe Mauer started the game with consecutive hits off Chi Chi Gonzalez (0-2) and both scored. Kurt Suzuki led off the second with his fifth homer, and it was 4-0 after Brian Dozier snapped an 0-for-13 slump with an RBI single later in the inning.
”That was a good win. It wasn’t pretty early. We left men on base, but we were able to score a little bit,” manager Paul Molitor said. ”Offensively, after four early, it didn’t feel comfortable. I thought Max’s home run to extend that was good even though it was late. Then we were able to get the big inning.”
Kepler’s seventh homer of the season was a two-run shot that ignited a five-run eighth, putting the Twins up 9-0.
Duffey (5-6) retired the last nine batters he faced. The right-hander limited Texas to two hits over six innings, but walked four and hit two batters.
The Rangers didn’t score until Rougned Odor had a one-out triple in the ninth, their first base runner since the fourth, and came home when Elvis Andrus singled.
Kepler’s sac fly was a popup to shallow center field in the first caught by lunging shortstop Andrus. That sent Nunez home with the first run before Robbie Grossman’s RBI single.
Even with seven losses in nine games, the Rangers (53-34) still have the AL’s best record and a 6 1/2-game lead over Houston in the AL West.
For the first time in team history, Texas has gone six consecutive games without its starting pitcher finishing at least five innings.
Gonzalez made it only 4 2/3 innings, throwing 124 pitches in the longest outing by a Rangers starter in that stretch that started when the young right-hander got only two outs at Minnesota last Saturday. He allowed nine hits and walked five.
”Bottom line, we’ve got to be better, we have to be better,” manager Jeff Banister said. ”We’ve been really good in some stretches, we talk about, it all starts with starting pitching. … We can’t continue to cover four or five innings in the bullpen every single night.”