Kepler homers twice as Twins thump Rangers
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) It looks as if the Minnesota Twins are finally coming around at the plate.
Max Kepler homered twice and set a Twins rookie record by driving in seven runs, helping Minnesota rout the Texas Rangers 17-5 on Saturday.
The Twins entered the game having scored the fewest runs in the American League. But they hit six homers last Sunday in a win at Yankee Stadium, and then they averaged five runs in a three-game series at the White Sox.
And Saturday was pretty nice, too.
Eduardo Nunez had four hits for the Twins, who scored at least three runs in four of the first five innings. Kepler's second home run of the day capped a six-run fifth inning and gave the Twins a 17-4 lead.
''We know the struggles offensively aren't going to be all year long,'' Nunez said. ''It has to change at some point.''
Texas right-hander Chi Chi Gonzalez (0-1) recorded just two outs in his second start of the season. Gonzalez walked two batters and gave up two hits in Minnesota's four-run first. He also was hurt by poor defense, with misplays on three consecutive batters extending the inning.
Rangers manager Jeff Banister pulled him after 38 pitches.
''You get into a situation like that - young kid, could have pushed him to one more hitter,'' Banister said. ''Wherever that takes him, he's out of that game anyway. I'm going to protect him.''
Cesar Ramos replaced Gonzalez and was charged with seven runs in 2 1/3 innings as the Twins worked their way through the Texas bullpen. The Rangers finally turned to backup catcher Bryan Holaday for the last four outs.
Tyler Duffey (4-6) was the beneficiary of the outburst, pitching six innings for his second straight win. He gave up four runs and eight hits, including long home runs by Ryan Rua and Robinson Chirinos in the fourth inning.
Minnesota slugger Miguel Sano launched a two-run drive into the second deck in left field in the second inning. His 12th homer of the season was his first since returning from a hamstring injury that sidelined him throughout June.
Sano was one of three players who shared the previous team rookie record with six RBIs. And apparently he wasn't eager to yield the title to Kepler.
''Sano was telling me during the game that he had eight, so I was a little bummed out about that,'' Kepler said. ''But everybody on the bench was like, `No he didn't.'''
''I'm honored today to even have achieved something like that,'' Kepler added. ''But let's keep it going.''
SAN DIEGO BOUND?
Nunez is making a strong argument for an invitation to his first All-Star Game. He led off the first and second with doubles, hit a sacrifice fly in the third inning and singled in the fifth and sixth. He is hitting a team-high .322 with 11 homers, 34 RBIs, 42 runs scored and 18 stolen bases.
But the seven-year veteran isn't letting the upcoming All-Star announcements distract him.
''I don't want to put anything in my mind yet,'' Nunez said. ''I have no control over that. The only control I have is to play well and do my thing and help the team to win.''
The Rangers had a rocky first inning with fielding gaffes on three straight plays that led to four runs. With two on and one out, Gonzalez snagged Brian Dozier's comebacker, but Rougned Odor dropped the throw to second base, erasing the chance for an inning-ending double play. Kepler then grounded softly to first baseman Mitch Moreland, who threw home too late to force Nunez.
Finally, Eduardo Escobar hit a potential double-play grounder, but shortstop Elvis Andrus dropped Odor's feed. He recovered in time to retire Kepler, but that opened the door for Juan Centeno's two-run single.
Twins: RHP Trevor May (back) pitched a scoreless inning for Triple-A Rochester in his injury rehab assignment on Friday. General manager Terry Ryan said that May would pitch again on Saturday night, his first time pitching on consecutive days since he was put on the DL on June 10. Ryan said May is ''relatively close'' to returning to the Twins' 25-man roster. . SS Escobar left with a strained left hamstring. He is day to day
Rangers LHP Cole Hamels has won four straight starts, giving up just two earned runs in 27 2/3 innings. He'll look to extend that streak on Sunday against Minnesota's Kyle Gibson, who earned his first win of the season on Tuesday. Gibson pitched seven innings in a 4-0 win over the White Sox.