Kepler powers Twins to win

Friday, June 7, 2019
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AP PHOTO
Minnesota Twins’ Max Kepler, right, is congratulated by Jorge Polanco after Kepler hit a solo home run during the seventh inning of the team’s baseball game against the Cleveland Indians on Thursday in Cleveland. It was Kepler’s third home run of the night.

CLEVELAND (AP) — Trevor Bauer felt great about most of the pitches he threw to Minnesota’s Max Kepler.

The Twins outfielder liked them more.

Kepler homered three times off Bauer, and José Berríos locked up Cleveland’s lineup into the seventh inning as the Twins avoided a sweep — and their first three-game losing streak — by beating the Indians 5-4 on Thursday night.

Kepler, who entered hitless in his previous 21 atbats, connected in the first, third and seventh innings off Bauer (4-6), who thought he was making mostly quality pitches but gave up homers on a changeup, fastball and slider.

“Two of them I felt like were pitches that were supposed to be in my favor,” Bauer said. “Clearly, they weren’t.”

Kepler also walked in the fifth, and the 26-year-old came up in the ninth with a chance to become the 19th player to hit four homers in one game — a feat rarer than a perfect game. But lefthander Josh Smith kept Kepler in the park, getting him to hit a hard grounder to the right side that he beat out for a single.

Kepler said history wasn’t on his mind.

“I thought about it for a second, but I got back within myself and had the same approach as every other atbat — see it and try to put the bat on it,” he said.

It was Kepler’s second career three-homer game. The other one also came against the Indians on Aug. 1, 2016, and Kepler acknowledged having a brief flashback to that performance.

“The game is very unique. Odd things like this happen and crazy situations that you can’t really pin,” he said. “But I’m honored to be a part of it. Some days you don’t see the ball great, other days you see it like a beach ball.”

The AL-Central leading Twins took the series finale and again moved 10½ games ahead of Cleveland, whose run of three straight division titles could be coming to an end.

Berríos (8-2) had another strong outing against the Indians. The right-hander allowed just one run — a homer by Roberto Pérez — and two hits before being replaced in the seventh. Berrios beat Cleveland on opening day, striking out 10 in 7 2/3 shutout innings.

Indians rookie Oscar Mercado’s pinch-hit homer in the ninth pulled Cleveland to 5-4 before Taylor Rogers retired Pérez for his sixth save.

Baseball’s biggest surprise in 2019, Minnesota has only lost two in a row four times this season. Just one Twins team has gone longer without losing three straight this late: the 1970 squad, which dropped three in a row from June 17-20.

The Indians were hoping to cut into a deficit they never imagined would be so big, so early. But Bauer remained winless since April 30 — a span of seven starts.

He gave up a home run to Kepler on his second pitch and finished allowing five runs and five hits in eight innings. Not bad, but not what Cleveland needed with three full-time starters sidelined with injuries.

ROCKIES 3, CUBS 1

CHICAGO (AP) — Peter Lambert (1-0) allowed four hits over seven innings and struck out nine to win his major league debut. The 22-year-old right-hander was selected in the second round with the 44th overall pick of the 2015 amateur draft,

He also singled on his first pitch as a big league batter, using a two-tone bat to loop a fastball from José Quintana (4-5) to right-center field.

Scott Oberg threw a perfect ninth for this third save, completing a five-hitter.

Colorado took a 2-0 lead in the third when David Dahl hit an RBI single and scored on the first of Ian Desmond's two doubles.

ASTROS 8, MARINERS 7

SEATTLE (AP) — Myles Straw led off the 14th inning with a triple and scored on Yuli Gurriel's sacrifice fly, and Houston outlasted pesky Seattle in the longest game of the season by innings for either team.

Seattle staged tying rallies in the ninth and 10th innings and loaded the bases in the bottom of the 14th thanks to three walks by Chris Devenski (1-0), but the right-hander got Shed Long to fly out to end it.

Houston led 5-1 after 6 1/2 innings but Seattle chipped away, tying it at 6 in the ninth on Edwin Encarnacion's single against closer Roberto Osuna. That prevented Justin Verlander from becoming the first 10-game winner in the AL.

Matt Festa (0-1) allowed Straw's triple — a ball that was played poorly by right fielder Domingo Santana — and one walk in the 14th for the Mariners.

Seattle outfielder Mitch Haniger left in the seventh with what the team called a "mid-body" contusion.

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