Max Kepler continues to enhance his reputation as a Detroit Tigers killer.
The Minnesota right fielder has seven homers against the Tigers since the start of last season, including a grand slam in Minnesota’s 5-4 victory over Detroit on Monday.
The Twins, who are riding a five-game winning streak, will pursue another victory over the Tigers on Tuesday night in Minneapolis.
Kepler hit three homers against Detroit during Minnesota’s three-game home sweep in April. He blasted his grand slam in the first inning on Monday, then scored the winning run in the ninth after drawing a leadoff walk.
“He, from the start, has seen the ball well,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He’s stayed pretty balanced in his approach and just what he’s trying to do in different at-bats.
“Obviously, a big swing today from him, but the at-bats overall have been high-, high-level stuff from him all season. He’s been sitting there in the middle of the lineup for us, and he’s come up big-time and time again, and this was another big day for him.”
Kepler is batting .262 with six homers and 22 RBIs this season. He has scored seven runs and knocked in seven more during the winning streak.
Right-hander Sonny Gray (1-1, 3.48 ERA) will attempt to keep the Twins rolling when he starts Tuesday. Gray collected his first win with Minnesota on Wednesday, holding Oakland to two runs on six hits with no walks in six innings.
Gray began his career with the Athletics.
“I had never beaten the A’s before,” Gray said, “so I really wanted to — selfishly, personally — wanted to do that.”
He retired the last 10 batters he faced.
“In about the third inning, I was like, ‘All right, now it’s time to go,'” Gray said. “I started throwing the ball a little bit harder. I started getting after it a little more. I felt great.”
Gray has faced Detroit six times in his career, including five starts, posting a 2-1 record and 3.23 ERA.
The Tigers are expected to start right-hander Rony Garcia (0-0, 2.57) in the second game of the three-game series. Against the Twins in his career, he is 0-0 with a 13.50 ERA in three appearances.
Detroit had five players collect two hits apiece as it slowly erased a 4-0 deficit on Monday. However, the Tigers finished 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left nine on base.
“We had a lot of opportunities, but we needed a lot of opportunities to chip away and make it a game,” Detroit manager A.J. Hinch said. “That was a tough start for us. I thought we outplayed them, other than the first inning and the last inning. Unfortunately, they made the most of their opportunities and each of their scoring innings started with a walk.”
The Tigers are 0-4 against Minnesota this season, all on the road.
“It’s obviously a tough loss,” Hinch said. “We’ve had a couple of tough losses in this ballpark.”
–Field Level Media