Staring at five infielders, Minnesota Twins rookie Max Kepler was just trying to get a ball into the outfield to score Joe Mauer in the 10th inning.
Kepler’s hit went a lot further than that and provided a big lift for the Twins.
Kepler’s first major league homer was a three-run shot Sunday that cleared the center-field fence and gave Minnesota a 7-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox.
”I put my head down running to first, and then I saw it go (over) the wall and was like, that was me?” Kepler said.
Mauer drew a leadoff walk in the 10th from Matt Barnes (2-3) and was sacrificed to second by Trevor Plouffe. Brian Dozier singled off the glove of shortstop Xander Bogaerts, sending Mauer to third.
Boston brought in outfielder Mookie Betts and played in with a five-man infield, but Kepler made that all moot when the rookie from Germany gave Minnesota its fifth walk-off win of the season, the third on a home run.
”It’s a sound move, but it’s not something a hitter is accustomed to seeing,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. ”So you probably overthink it a little bit instead of putting a good swing on the ball. Thankfully he did it with two strikes.”
Barnes hadn’t allowed an extra-base hit in his last nine appearances and had a 2.31 ERA and .181 opponents’ batting average in his last 18 games.
”In a situation like that, I’m 100 percent going for a strikeout,” Barnes said.
Michael Tonkin (2-2) allowed a single to Bogaerts in the top of the inning but struck out David Ortiz with Bogaerts at second.
Miscues on defense marked big innings for both teams. Boston’s three-run eighth was aided by two Minnesota throwing errors.
Bogaerts, who had four hits in each of the first two games of the three-game series, made two errors after entering the game with only two all season.
He misplayed a tough hop in the second inning and then hesitated on a throw to first with two outs in the sixth, bouncing the throw. The Twins wound up scoring twice.
”The first one was a bit tough, kind of do-or-die,” Bogaerts said. ”That was a bit tough, but the other one was kind of unacceptable. That was an easy out right there.”