Kepler's homework pays off against K-Rod

Kepler's homework pays off against K-Rod

DETROIT -- Max Kepler came through in the clutch Wednesday afternoon in the Twins' 4-1 win over the Tigers at Comerica Park. Faced with the tall task of getting a ninth-inning hit off Francisco Rodriguez, Kepler took some advice from a teammate and belted a solo home run to right field that gave the Twins a 2-1 lead.

"I was [sitting on changeup]," Kepler said. "I remember somebody telling me he likes to throw changeups in all his fastball counts. Luckily he left it up, because if it were down, it probably would have been a good pitch."

Kepler's homer helped the Twins win the series and pick up their second win over the Tigers in nine games this season. The home run was the spark the Twins needed, as two batters later, Eddie Rosario busted the game open with a two-run shot to right of his own.

Kepler said the big inning came because of the Twins' never-say-die approach, even after an emotional week that included the dismissal of general manager Terry Ryan.

"We just kept battling," Kepler said. "We struck out a bunch of times each game. We still just tried to put the ball in play, whatever inning we were in."

Kepler's home run Wednesday extended his recent surge at the plate. Kepler has nine homers in his last 26 games and has recorded at least one hit in 26 of his last 34 games.

Manager Paul Molitor said he thinks Kepler has done a better job recently of sitting on offspeed pitches. Molitor was pleased to see that Kepler did his homework on Rodriguez.

"When [Rodriguez] has needed a pitch behind, he's kind of one of those backwards guys that relies on deception," Molitor said. "[Kepler] got the changeup 3-2, and he deposited it."

It was Kepler's second go-ahead homer of the season, the other coming in the form of a walk-off back on June 12. Molitor said that while Kepler's hits have been spread out, many of them have come at important times in games.

"That's a good trend that he's getting more comfortable with the game on the line," Molitor said. "That was just a good at-bat, and he got rewarded by getting an offspeed [pitch] that was probably left up just a little too much."

Kyle Beery is a reporter for MLB.com based in Detroit and covered the Twins on Wednesday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.