MINNEAPOLIS -- Rookie Max Kepler's first career homer was a big one, as he launched a walk-off three-run blast off the batter's eye in center field in the 10th inning to lift the Twins to a 7-4 win over the Red Sox on Sunday at Target Field.
After Brian Dozier singled with one out to move Joe Mauer to third base, the Red Sox went with a five-man infield behind right-hander Matt Barnes. But Kepler made sure it didn't matter, as he crushed an 0-2 fastball a projected 434 feet, per Statcast™. Kepler became the fourth Twins player to have a walk-off homer as a first career homer, and the first since Terry Tiffee on Sept. 4, 2004.
"I'm just thankful I was able to get the bat to the ball and be as simple as I was," Kepler said. "I told myself to put myself into a hit-and-run situation with quick hands and to keep it simple. The swing before, I tried to do too much, and was thinking I wanted to hit it out of the park, but on 0-2, I shortened it up and got the bat to the ball."
Barnes hadn't allowed an extra-base hit in his previous nine appearances.
"Situation like that, I'm going for a strikeout," Barnes said. "If I get weak contact, popup maybe to shallow outfield, everybody knew we were looking for a ground ball, keep the ball on the ground there. In a situation like that, I'm 100 percent going for a strikeout."
The Red Sox trailed by three runs entering the eighth, but tied it up after loading the bases with nobody out against reliever Brandon Kintzler. Xander Bogaerts hit a grounder to third baseman Eduardo Nunez, but his throw to second sailed into right field to bring home two runs. The Twins called on lefty Fernando Abad to face David Ortiz, and he got him to ground into a double play, but the tying run scored.
It spoiled a strong outing from Twins lefty Pat Dean, who grew up in Naugatuck, Conn., and pitched at Boston College. He excelled in his fifth career start, allowing one run on three hits and four walks with three strikeouts. The lone run he allowed came on a homer from Chris Young in the fifth. Reliever Michael Tonkin got the win with a scoreless 10th, striking out Ortiz on a 96-mph fastball with Bogaerts at second to get out of the inning.
Dean outdueled Red Sox right-hander Rick Porcello, who was also solid, but hurt by two errors by Bogaerts that led to three unearned runs. Porcello went seven innings, surrendering four runs (one earned) on five hits and two walks. The earned run came in the first, when Nunez singled, stole second and advanced on a pair of grounders, including an RBI groundout by Mauer.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Twins capitalize on errors: Minnesota got two insurance runs in the sixth, keyed by a throwing error from Bogaerts with two outs. With runners at the corners, Kepler hit a grounder to Bogaerts, who bounced his throw to first and Hanley Ramirez couldn't handle it, allowing Robbie Grossman to score from third. Eduardo Escobar followed with a bloop RBI single to give the Twins a three-run lead. They also benefitted from an error from Bogaerts with one out in the second on a grounder from Juan Centeno that helped setup an RBI groundout from Byron Buxton.
Young hits lefties: Young continued to do damage against left-handed pitchers. Young hit his sixth home run in the fifth off Dean. Young has been seeing everyday duty in left field with Brock Holt on the disabled list, but he's especially thrived against lefties with a .429 batting average, two homers and five RBIs in 35 at-bats.
Jepsen escapes jam: Dean exited with one out in the seventh after issuing a pair of walks, and the Twins called on former closer Kevin Jepsen. Jepsen did the job, getting Young to pop up to Mauer at first base before striking out Travis Shaw. It was the first outing for Jepsen without giving a hit since April 25, ending a stretch of allowing at least one hit in 17 straight appearances.
"That was big," Dean said. "I tried to do too much and got a little wild there and lost control. Jeppy coming in and saving those runs for me was huge. Hopefully it gets a little bit of confidence going for both us."
Unlucky Porcello: Porcello allowed the first hitter he faced to eventually score, but was undone thereafter by the Red Sox defense. Bogaerts made two errors. Porcello retired 11 in a row before walking Grossman to start the sixth. Mauer added a single, but Porcello came back to retire Trevor Plouffe and Dozier on popups before Bogaerts' second error.
"That would have been the third out of the inning," Bogaerts said. "With our offense, we would have came back. You can never count us out. You saw it later on. If I just throw that ball right there, I mean, that is one of the few errors I wish I could really take back because that kind of hurt and kind of dragged the inning a bit longer. After a blooper, it killed us."
"It was a pretty surreal experience for me. Luckily I was able to make some pitches. That was really cool right there. I know a lot of Red Sox fans back home who told me they were rooting against the Red Sox for the first time in their lives today." -- Dean, on striking out Ortiz in the first inning
"I called for the bunt. Left on left; granted, that's something we don't typically call for him, but the way he's been swinging the bat of late, looking to move a runner." -- Boston manager John Farrell, on having Shaw bunt in the ninth. Shaw bunted into a double play and finished the road trip 1-for-18More >
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With his single in the sixth, Mauer extended his on-base streak to 24 straight games, the longest active streak in the Majors. It's his second streak of reaching base safely in at least 24 consecutive games this year, as he also reached in 28 straight from April 4-May 4.
WHAT'S NEXT Red Sox: Boston returns home to face Baltimore following a day off. Left-hander David Price (7-3, 4.63 ERA) opens the three-game series Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. ET. against O's ace right-hander Chris Tillman (8-1, 3.01). Price has lost his past two starts despite giving up just four earned runs in 15 innings in the two outings.
Twins: The Twins head west for a three-game series against the Angels that begins Monday at 9:05 p.m. CT. Righty Ricky Nolasco (2-4, 5.17), who will oppose righty Jered Weaver (5-5, 5.56), gave up five runs on a season-high 11 hits in 5 2/3 innings against the Marlins on Wednesday.