With HR drought over, Kepler eyes strong finish

Rookie slugs 16th homer in losing effort against Indians

With HR drought over, Kepler eyes strong finish

CLEVELAND -- When Brian Dozier and Max Kepler both homered on Aug. 2, it gave Kepler his 15th homer of the year and he trailed Dozier by just five homers on the season.

Kepler was coming off a three-homer game and was flashing unexpected power in a strong start to his rookie season. But since then, Kepler fell into a month-long slump, while Dozier had an August for the ages. They both homered again in Cleveland on Wednesday, but it ended with a familiar result in an 8-4 loss that was the Twins' 13th in a row, which is one shy of the franchise record set in 1982.

It gave Kepler his long-awaited 16th homer of the year, snapping a streak of 101 plate appearances without going deep, while Dozier has doubled Kepler's homer total with 32. But Kepler said ending his homerless drought didn't alleviate anything because of the losing streak.

"I think I'll be relieved when we get a win, and not when one guy hits a home run," Kepler said. "I just want to win right now. It's tough. This is the first time I've personally experienced it. We just have to keep grinding. It's not easy, mentally or physically."

Twins manager Paul Molitor, though, was pleased to see Kepler snap his streak with his solo homer in the second, and noted he followed it with a tough-luck double-play liner in the fifth and a walk in the seventh. Molitor noted Kepler has been pitched to differently in August, as pitchers have tended to pitch him away while feeding him a steady diet of changeups. This time, Kepler got a 1-2 fastball up in the zone and smacked it over the center-field fence.

"He's been battling and they've been pitching him tough with him trying to learn how to sustain here through a long first season," Molitor said. "He's grinding. You hope maybe one good swing will get him back on track a little bit."

While the Twins are hopeful Kepler can get it going, they're also hoping that Dozier can keep it going, as he's been one of the hottest hitters in baseball since late June and finished a historic August that saw him hit 13 homers. It was one shy of the team record of 14 homers in a month set by Harmon Killebrew in June 1964. Dozier also had a tough break, as he had a homer washed away by a rainout on Aug. 9.

Dozier's two-run home run

His two-run homer against Kluber came in eighth on a first-pitch fastball, making it a three-run game. But like Kepler, Dozier found no solace in his homer because of the losing streak, and said he was just trying to be aggressive on a fastball because Kluber had been challenging him with heaters all game.

"He threw a lot more fastballs tonight," Dozier said. "He kept coming at me. But at the same time, he was pitching with a big lead for a while."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.