Sano, Kepler homers power Twins past Rangers 17-5

MINNEAPOLIS -- Even after making team history on Saturday, Max Kepler was unsure of his place in the Minnesota Twins' record book.Kepler hit a pair of three-run homers among his seven RBI in a 17-5 whitewashing of the Texas Rangers at Target Fiel...

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Minnesota Twins right fielder Miguel Sano is congratulated by third base coach Gene Glynn after hitting a two-run home run during the third inning against the Texas Rangers Saturday at Target Field. (Photo by Jeffrey Becker / USA TODAY Sports)

MINNEAPOLIS - Even after making team history on Saturday, Max Kepler was unsure of his place in the Minnesota Twins’ record book.
Kepler hit a pair of three-run homers among his seven RBI in a 17-5 whitewashing of the Texas Rangers at Target Field.
After his second homer and seventh RBI, which set a franchise rookie record, teammate Miguel Sano kidded him that he still had work to do.
“Sano was telling me during the game that he had eight, so I was a little bummed out about that,” Kepler said. “I’m honored today to even have achieved something like that.”
Kepler’s seven RBIs were one more than the previous record of six, tied by Sano last season. Oswaldo Arcia and Tony Oliva also had six RBIs as rookies with the Twins.
“Yesterday, I felt like I was rushing a little bit so I just tried to slow things down today,” Kepler said. “Like I always say, keep it simple. It just turned out in my favor.”
Kepler’s day at the plate was filled with firsts: Saturday also marked his first two-homer game and first home run off a left-handed pitcher. After knocking in just two runs in his first 19 games this season, Kepler has been a run-producing machine, knocking in 20 over his last 19 games.

“We’re seeing improvement in the quality of at-bats day-to-day whether it’s a righty or lefty. I think he’s learning,” said Twins manager Paul Molitor. “He’s paying attention, making adjustments, but when you have a little success, you get some hits, you hit a couple balls over the fence, you have a big day like today, I think it bodes well for where he’s at mentally. But he’s still learning. He’s got a lot of skill. We’re going to continue to try to find ways to polish it up a little bit.”
The 17 runs scored was a season-high for Minnesota, which has the worst record in baseball (26-54). Texas, which began the day with the best record in the American League, has lost three of its last four.
Eduardo Nunez had four hits, including a pair of doubles, and Sano had a two-run homer and knocked in three.
Things got so bad for Texas in the later innings that catcher Bryan Holaday was tasked with getting the final four outs of the game.
“We kind of set the tone in the first. Obviously a little sloppy play, couldn’t get ourselves out of the first,” said Rangers manager Jeff Banister. “Chi Chi [Gonzalez] working from behind. He had his own error and then just very challenging to get out of the first. He got to the 30-pitch mark, relatively young kid like that and that type of inning, I’m not going to continue to push him further. Then we just couldn’t gain any ground and we couldn’t stop them from scoring after that with [relievers Cesar] Ramos and [Luke] Jackson.”
Tyler Duffey (4-6) got the win, allowing four runs on eight hits while walking none and striking out two in six innings of work.
“I just had to make sure I stayed loose between innings, go out there and just throw strikes,” Duffey said. “I wasn’t trying to walk anybody at that point either. The one (home run) was just a 3-2 fastball I challenged him and the other was a breaking ball I left up a little bit. But when you’re working with a cushion like that it’s one of those things you can get mad. A win’s a win, and when you do it like that it’s lots of fun.”
Gonzalez (0-1), making his second start of the season, did not get out of the first inning, allowing four runs on two hits and two walks in just two-thirds of an inning. Three of the four runs allowed were unearned as Texas made an error and failed to turn a routine double play that would have limited the damage.
Instead, the Twins scored on a pair of fielder’s choices before Juan Centeno’s two-run single finished off a four-run first.
“It was tough, so early on. I mean, two outs of the game and I’m out of the game already,” Rodriguez said. “Super frustrating. Felt good going into the game. I had my confidence up. Tough one to swallow.”
Kepler’s three-run homer in the second made it 7-1 and Sano capped a four-run third inning with his two-run blast.
The Twins tacked on six more in the fifth on an RBI single by Nunez, a bases-loaded walk by Sano, a Brian Dozier sacrifice fly, and Kepler’s second three-run homer of the afternoon.
Ramos and Jackson combined to go four innings but allowed 13 runs on 10 hits and three walks while striking out two.
Ryan Rua, Robinson Chirinos and Shin-Soo Choo each homered for Texas; Rua and Chirinos each had a pair of hits.
Dozier went 0 for 3 at the plate, ending his career-long hitting streak at 13 games.

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