Then, Byron Buxton did the same thing two innings later to give the Twins a 2-0 lead. Marwin Gonzalez followed with a two-run single later that inning, and that was all the Twins needed to grab a 4-1 win over the Orioles and push the season series to 6-0 in favor of Minnesota.
In fact, the Twins have won 12 straight games over Baltimore, dating back to last season.
And again, it was bombs away for the Twins, who hit 12 home runs to set a new team record for taters in a three-game series.
The previous record was 11 — set last weekend in Baltimore against these same Orioles.
Here’s what I saw:
The turning point
Would it be too gauche to say the first pitch of the bottom of the first inning was the turning point?
Kepler absolutely pasted the first pitch he saw from Bundy, as it was a poorly located 89 mph fastball.
The Twins tacked on three more runs by the end of the day, but the Orioles didn’t score until a Chris Davis wall-scraper in the seventh inning, so it seems fair to say Kepler’s long ball set the tone for yet another win over Baltimore.
Kepler had a great series against the Orioles, going 6 for 12 with six RBIs and four homers — including at least one in each game.
Kepler is hitting a stellar .274/.340/.571 on the season — a .912 OPS.
Kyle Gibson was very, very good
The only real blemish on Gibson’s ledger was the solo homer to Davis, and even then it was after the Twins had stretched the lead to 4-0 — a lead that never at any point felt in jeopardy.
Gibson said it isn’t so much that he’s feeling better physically than he was at the start of the season — after missing a chunk of his offseason preparation with E. coli — but that he’s gotten more repetitions as he’s made each of his now five starts this year.
After a tough first start, Gibson’s ERA has dropped with each outing, from 9.64 to 7.71 to 7.36 to 6.10 to the 4.88 mark where it currently resides.
Gibson threw mostly two-seam fastballs and sliders against the Orioles, mixing it at about 92-94 mph with the fastball — peaking at 94.4 — with eight of his 13 swinging strikes coming on the slider.
He also noted that he was carrying a better feel for his changeup, which he threw 17 times with four swinging strikes in the win.
The Twins absolutely neutralized the middle of the Baltimore order
From hitters 3-6, the Orioles were a combined 0 for 16 with seven strikeouts. Austin Wynns was the only one to not strike out, but Renato Nunez made up for his effort by wearing the Golden Sombrero with four whiffs.
In total, Dwight Smith Jr., Nunez, Rio Ruiz and Wynns accounted for more than half the at-bats from the team on the day, and nearly half the strikeouts (nine).
Gonzalez is starting to heat up
Marwin reached base three times — a single and two walks — and now has his season line up to .173/.253/.267. That’s certainly not an exciting line in and of itself, but he also added the team’s first non-Buxton stolen base of the season and reached base four times over the final two games of the series.
He’s starting at first base in Monday’s game, and it’ll be good to see his bat get going as well as the rest of the offense has been really swinging it while he’s been cold.
Buxton hit his first homer of the year
It was the hardest-hit ball of the day — 109.6 mph via StatCast — and it went 401 feet with an xBA of .880. It was a fastball left up in the zone, and Buxton wasted no time putting a good swing on it.
The homer was Buxton’s only hit in the series, though he did take a walk and score a run off the bench on Saturday.
- The Twins swept the season series from Baltimore for the first time since 2015.
- Rochester lefty Lewis Thorpe — who is on the 40-man roster — was named International League Pitcher of the Week as well as Twins minor-league pitcher of the week. Thorpe struck out 12 batters in eight innings in his solid appearance of the week on April 23 vs. Scranton-Wilkes Barre.
- Outfielder Alex Kirilloff is expected to make his Pensacola Blue Wahoos (Double-A) debut sometime this week, Cory Provus said on the radio during Sunday’s game.
- Third baseman Miguel Sano will begin a rehab stint with High-A Fort Myers on Tuesday, the team announced. Sano (heel) has not played yet this season after suffering an injury celebrating a Dominican Winter League championship.
- Up Next: Houston (Justin Verlander) at Minnesota (Jake Odorizzi), 7:10 p.m. Monday at Target Field