Kepler belts 3 HRs to back Berrios in win over Tribe
By Shane Jackson and Rhett Bollinger
CLEVELAND -- The Twins continued their success against the American League Central-leading Indians on Monday night, as right fielder Max Kepler put on a stellar performance with three of Minnesota's five home runs in a 12-5 win in the series opener at Progressive Field.
All three of Kepler's homers were two-run shots. He hit one in the first, third and sixth to log the fifth three-homer game in Twins history. It was the first since Justin Morneau on July 6, 2007, at the White Sox. Kepler became the first player to hit three homers with six RBIs against the Indians since Paul Konerko did it on July 7, 2009.
"I'm not a home run hitter, so it's rare," Kepler said. "I'm just trying to hit singles. I'm just trying to put the ball in play and hit it hard. I'm thankful for the backspin I was blessed with."
Minnesota starter Jose Berrios posted his longest outing of his career. The right-hander, ranked as the No. 16 overall prospect by MLBPipeline.com, made his Major League debut against the Tribe earlier this season on April 27. In his first start since rejoining the club, Berrios held the Indians to three runs on four hits over six innings. All three runs came in the first.
Tribe starter Danny Salazar was on the receiving end of two Kepler jacks. Salazar surrendered three total homers in the shortest outing of his career. The right-hander was pulled after three batters in the third without recording an out. Salazar gave up six runs on six hits across two frames.
"He obviously doesn't look like himself the last couple games," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "So what we're going to do is we're going to get him looked at tomorrow, mostly, I hope, just for his peace of mind. Hopefully, nothing, and then we can move forward, and I think Danny can relax a little bit, and if there's a need to look at it further, we can."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Max power: Kepler put on a historic performance against the Indians by crushing three homers that went a combined 1,234 feet, per Statcast™. He also became the fourth player this season to hit three homers at least 400 feet. It marked the second multi-homer game of Kepler's young career, as he also hit two against the Rangers on July 2. He has firmly established himself in the mix for the American League Rookie of the Year Award. Kepler came up with two late chances to hit a fourth homer, but he grounded out to first against newly acquired Andrew Miller in the eighth and singled off reliever Zach McAllister in the ninth.
"It's historic in the sense that you don't see three home runs all the time, and he's just one of a handful of Twins to do it," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "It's fun to watch. He does a really nice job as far as his swing being on a downward plane and getting that backspin. Those balls are basically line drives that went really far and weren't lifted." More >
Homers haunt Salazar: Salazar's struggles continued with the long ball on Monday. The 26-year-old hurler coughed up three home runs for the first time in his career. But it has been a trending issue for Salazar. He has allowed seven homers over his last five starts after allowing just six through his first 15 nods. This has led to a 8.84 ERA over his past four starts. Prior to that, the AL All-Star posted a 2.36 ERA.
"It's bad for me and for the team," Salazar said. "I think the sooner we [find out what it is], then the sooner we'll get through this. I know if I keep pitching like this, I'd be doing damage for the team." More >
Mauer power: Kepler's three homers overshadowed his performance, but Joe Mauer also went 4-for-5 with a homer, a walk and four runs scored. It marked Mauer's first four-hit, four-run game since July 6, 2007. Mauer greeted Miller with a solo shot to right to open the eighth.
"I think we were all hoping Joe is getting into a little of a run," Molitor said. "He's been tweaking a few things, trying to find a rhythm. Tonight was a good sign."
Chisen-wall: The Indians called on Cody Anderson with runners at the corners to get the final out in the fifth. Twins second baseman Brian Dozier ripped a pitch from Anderson into right for what appeared to be an extra-base hit. However, Lonnie Chisenhall was able to cover enough ground and make the grab before smacking into the wall. Despite the contact, he was able to hang on and keep the deficit at the time to five runs.
"I thought Lonnie was really active out there," Francona said. "Even the ball he didn't get, he went all out. I like when he plays that way because when he's aggressive out there, he's one of the better outfielders around."
"It's definitely an honor to be added to that list. Those guys are almost legend status." -- Kepler, on joining Morneau, Bob Allison (1963), Harmon Killebrew (1963) and Tony Oliva (1973) as the only Twins players with a three-homer game
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Kepler never hit more than 10 homers in any Minor League season, but he leads the Majors with 11 homers since July 1. His 14 long balls also pace all American League rookies.
MILLER MAKES DEBUT
Newly acquired Miller made his Indians debut in the eighth inning with his new team trailing, 10-3. The former Yankees lefty hadn't pitched since Tuesday, contributing to the decision to insert him into the lopsided affair. Miller was greeted with a standing ovation as he jogged from the bullpen. He surrendered a solo shot to Mauer and then got Kepler to ground out before exiting the game in his brief outing. More >
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Dozier led off the game with a single to center. During Mauer's at-bat, Dozier attempted to swipe second base and was initially awarded the bag as he appeared to have avoided the tag from Cleveland shortstop Francisco Lindor. The Indians elected to challenge the ruling, and after one minute and one second of review time, the play was overturned and deemed a 2-6 putout.
WHAT'S NEXT Twins: Right-hander Kyle Gibson (3-6, 4.54 ERA) is set to start for the Twins in the second-game of the series at 6:10 p.m. CT on Tuesday. Gibson has pitched well recently, posting a 3.03 ERA over his last six starts.
Indians: Right-hander Carlos Carrasco (7-4, 2.45 ERA) will get the nod for the Tribe. The big righty has strung three consecutive starts of at least six innings. During that span, Carrasco has allowed a total of five runs in 18 2/3 innings. He is 2-5 with a 4.02 ERA in 10 career starts against the Twins.