MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins right fielder Max Kepler has said it's taken him a while to mentally adjust to playing in the Major Leagues, in front of bigger crowds and with more pressure and scrutiny on his every move.With that in mind, it could have been easy for the 23-year-old to
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins right fielder Max Kepler has said it's taken him a while to mentally adjust to playing in the Major Leagues, in front of bigger crowds and with more pressure and scrutiny on his every move.
With that in mind, it could have been easy for the 23-year-old to fold after misplaying Andres Blanco's single and allowing two runs to score in the fifth inning of Wednesday night's game against the Phillies. Instead, he kept his composure and went on to deliver the game-tying RBI single and the go-ahead sacrifice fly to spur the Twins to a 6-5 victory.
"He was very upset, and you've just got to calm him down and just tell him it's going to be all right," said center fielder Byron Buxton. "I told him he was going to come up in a big situation, and he did, and he came through. That's baseball. You've just got to let the mistakes go and just keep going."
It didn't take long for that big situation to find Kepler.
After a two-run triple from Eduardo Escobar brought the Twins within one run in the fifth, Kepler lined a hard single up the middle off Philadelphia starter Adam Morgan to bring Escobar home and tie the game at 5-5.
"His at-bats, he's got an idea to stay in the middle of the field there in that situation, with a man on third and less than two outs when they're conceding a run, which is something that we've had trouble doing," said Twins manager Paul Molitor. "He's taking a plan up there, and he's executing a little bit better."
With the game still tied two innings later, he came up with runners on first and third with one out against Phillies reliever David Hernandez and tagged a first-pitch fastball into left field for a sacrifice fly, bringing home Trevor Plouffe with what ended up being the deciding run.
To put the icing on the cake, Kepler went on to record a diving catch in the eighth inning on a sinking line drive off the bat of Cameron Rupp.
Kepler has hit safely in 11 of his last 12 games to raise his batting average to .247 after hitting just .167 in limited action off the bench during a brief stint with the Twins in April. Molitor has made an effort to give Kepler everyday starts to get his bat going following his third callup on June 1, and performances like Wednesday night have been instrumental in building the young outfielder's confidence.
"He's a young player, and I still think the game kind of gets big at times, but we're seeing improvement and I think we're seeing confidence grow," Molitor said.
Do-Hyoung Park is a reporter for MLB.com based in Minneapolis.