7/2: Twins Crush Rangers 17-5; Kepler Sets Team Record for RBIs by a Rookie

It was an odd game, to say the least. Juan Centeno chased Texas Rangers starter Chi Chi Rodriguez with a 2-RBI single with two outs in the first inning en route to a 17-5 Minnesota Twins win over the Texas Rangers, who have the most wins in baseball.

“It was a crazy game. We haven’t had many of those, for sure,” said Twins manager Paul Molitor.

“A couple missed plays that we took advantage of in the first inning to get on the board,” he added, referring to two errors committed by Texas in the first inning. “I thought the big hit was Juan [Centeno] there with two outs, going from two to four [runs] and getting into the bullpen right away.”

Leadoff hitter Eduardo Nunez went 4-for-5 with two doubles, an RBI single and a sac fly in a rare DH stint.

“It’s a little bit out of his routine, for guys that don’t fill that role very often I think the main thing is just to try to keep yourself loose,” said Molitor, alluded to the long innings that came as a result of the Twins offensive onslaught.

“There was some long half-innings, but he ended up having six (five?) at-bats, so he was getting a chance to stay loose as far as getting out on the field.

“He’s rolling. He’s playing really good baseball for us.”

Nunez was his typical self after the game: laid-back, unwilling to take too much credit and not above using some subtle humor.

Tyler Duffey fared better than the last blowout game he pitched in, a 3.0-inning affair during a 14-10 Twins win over the Philadelphia Phillies. This time, despite giving up two home runs, he was able to go 6.0 innings, giving up eight hits and four earned runs.

Molitor said the long innings may have affected him, and the length of the game affected his decision to pull him after six innings. He finished with 96 pitches, 64 for strikes.

“A little bit. I think that’s why I was keeping a close eye on him in the fifth and the sixth after a couple of particularly long half innings on our offensive end,” he said.

“Sixth inning, he pitched around a base hit there. His pitch count was still reasonable, but there was no sense in pushing after … I was looking at the clock, and we’re 2:40, 2:45 [hours] into the game, and you consider a lot of factors about how far you want to push your guys.”

Duffey admitted that the long delays affected him a bit, but didn’t use it as an excuse for the two homers and four runs.

Miguel Sano, who played well at third, hit a moonshot for his first home run since coming off the disabled list (“He expanded the zone, had a lot of swing-and-misses early,” said Molitor, “but he finally got a slider that he could handle there. Good to see him on the home run board in his return.), but it was rookie Max Kepler who stole the show.

Kepler went 2-for-5 with two three-run home runs en route to recording seven RBI, the most for a Minnesota rookie. He passed Sano, recently-traded Oswaldo Arcia and Twins legend Tony Oliva to take the record.

He was working out after the game, and in the video below you can see he’s out of breath a bit when talking to the media. The German-born outfielder said that Sano messed with him during the game, telling him that he hit eight RBI once in his rookie season.

“I think we’re seeing improvement in the quality of at-bats day-to-day, whether it’s a righty or lefty,” said Molitor. “I think he’s learning, he’s paying attention, he’s making adjustments. But when you have a little bit of 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.”

The same could be said, really, for a team that has struggled to find offense at various points this season as well.

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