Max Kepler, after returning from the IL, hadn’t looked like himself. Apparently what he needed was a trip to an ivy-covered stadium that hosts the more-lovable of the two Chicago baseball clubs.
On a day that the Cincinnati Reds did them a favor and beat the White Sox, and the Boston Red Sox did them a favor in beating the Yankees, the Twins downed the Cubbies on the strength of Kepler’s long-missing bat.
For the Cubs, Yu Darvish and his arsenal of roughly 15 different pitches had been lights out this season, and continued to be for most of this game. The Twins manufactured an early lead small-ball style, while Jose Berrios shut down the Cubs.
In the first inning, a lead off single by Kepler was followed by a walk from Donaldson and an RBI single by Eddie Rosario. Despite another single, by LaMont Wade Jr, loading the bases, Darvish struck out Sano, and then Polanco and Garver to limit the damage. Who knew that would be the only run the Twins actually needed.
It wasn’t the only run they got though. They doubled the lead in the second. Super Jake Cave hit a screamer into the left field corner that caromed off the brick just right, and ended up with Cave sliding into third under the tag. Kepler came up a couple batters later, and even though it wasn’t a hit, had a very productive at-bat, nearly sneaking a grounder past the shifted infield and allowing Cave to score.
After the second, Darvish would put up zeros into the seventh, and strike out a whole bunch of (nine, if you’re the kind of silly person that wants actual numbers) Twins. Darvish got himself into trouble in the seventh though. Marwin Gonzalez lead the inning off with a double. With a tight pitching duel and a two-run lead, any ball in play from Kepler would have been good. Instead he did the very best thing he could have—hit it out of the park. The no-doubter to left doubled the Twins lead again, and pushed the highly-effective Darvish out of the game. Ryan Tepera finished the inning, including inducing Miguel Sano’s fourth strikeout of the night.
With two outs in the ninth, Kepler did it again, this time doubling on the first pitch he saw. Donaldson saw an intentional walk, but Eddie Rosario’s grounder ended the inning with no further damage.
Trevor May, Taylor Rogers, and Sergio Romo finished the night out for the Twins with a scoreless inning apiece. Romo made it interesting though, loading the bases without giving up a hit. A passed ball on third strike, a hit batter, and a walk filled the bags, but Romo worked out of his own jam by striking out Nico Horner.
In the last three games, the Twins have scored 12 runs against some good pitchers from a playoff contender. The Twins have meanwhile, only given up two runs. These are good signs, as the Twins take back the fourth seed, and close the divisional gap to two games, with five left to play. Rocco used Rogers in the eighth, and Romo as the closer tonight. Watch that for the playoffs too.
At least one Minnesota team looked competent today.
Jose Berrios: 6 IP, 0 ER
Hell, the entire pitching staff this series
Max Kepler: 3-5, 3 RBI, HR, double
Josh Donaldson: 2-3, 2 BBs
No duds!! Twins win!!
Come grab your award Coach!