Tony Gutierrez
July 08, 2016

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) 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.''

STRANDED RUNNERS

While Molitor wasn't sure if the Twins had scored 10 or 11 runs, he knew how many runners they left on base. ''I do know we left 15,'' he said. ''I always look at that.''

SHORT HOPS

Kepler has six homers in his last 17 games. ... Every Minnesota starter had a hit. The last Twin to get a hit was No. 9 batter Byron Buxton with an RBI single in the eighth. ... The Rangers failed to homer for the first time in 18 games. ... OF Jared Hoying pitched the ninth for Texas, giving up solo homer to pinch-hitter Kennys Vargas.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Twins: Molitor said RHP Phil Hughes indicated in an e-mail Thursday that his surgery Wednesday ''went well.'' Hughes had a rib removed to help relieve thoracic outlet syndrome.

Rangers: Yu Darvish threw a 32-pitch bullpen session. The Rangers will see how he feels Friday before determining if the right-hander will make his next rehab start Saturday or Sunday for Double-A Frisco. ... 1B Mitch Moreland was out of the starting lineup for the fifth consecutive day because of a mild strain in his right calf. He is expected to play Friday.

UP NEXT

Twins: RHP Kyle Gibson (2-5) goes for third consecutive victory. He has gone at least six innings in each of his last four starts, including last Sunday at home to beat Texas.

Rangers: All-Star LHP Cole Hamels (9-2, 2.93 ERA) makes his second consecutive start against the Twins, who had five runs and 10 hits off him in four innings Sunday at Minnesota - his shortest start since being acquired by the Rangers last July. He still has a chance to become the first Texas pitcher in four seasons to get 10 wins by the All-Star break.

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