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Kepler homers in 5th straight AB vs. Bauer

July 14, 2019

CLEVELAND -- Trevor Bauer simply has no answer for Max Kepler. In the last meeting between the division opponents on June 6, Kepler launched three homers and drew a walk off the Indians' right-hander. He picked up right where he left off on Saturday night, when he clubbed a pair

CLEVELAND -- Trevor Bauer simply has no answer for Max Kepler.

In the last meeting between the division opponents on June 6, Kepler launched three homers and drew a walk off the Indians' right-hander. He picked up right where he left off on Saturday night, when he clubbed a pair of solo homers in the first and second innings to stretch his streak to five consecutive at-bats with homers against Bauer before striking out in the fourth.

Box score

Kepler’s pair of shots were joined by a solo homer and a clutch late two-run double by Jake Cave to push the Twins to another important 6-2 victory over the Indians at Progressive Field on Saturday night. The win extended the Twins’ lead in the American League Central to 7 1/2 games, and set Minnesota up for a chance at a sweep behind ace Jose Berrios on Sunday afternoon.

“I just try and time a guy and stay as balanced as possible,” Kepler said. “And sometimes, you know you're off-balance. People make mistakes and the best hitters can simplify. Like [Mike] Trout, he's always [balanced], it looks like. I was balanced today."

Kepler’s homers in five consecutive at-bats against Bauer matched the longest streak by any batter off a single pitcher in the Expansion Era (since 1961), according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Carlos Delgado hit five straight against Jorge Sosa from 2003-04, while Frank Howard also accomplished the feat against Bob Hendley from '63-64.

Kepler is the only player to hit all five consecutive homers in a single season.

“It's unfathomable that it is happening in front of our eyes,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I was going to say that I don't think any of us had seen anything like it. Come to find out, nobody has seen anything like it.”

Kepler leads the Twins with 23 homers and is third among American League outfielders in long balls, behind only Trout and Jorge Soler. His 2.8 WAR, per FanGraphs, also ranked third among AL outfielders entering the game, behind Trout and Mookie Betts.

It's not as though Kepler has been sitting on any one of Bauer's pitches. Kepler launched a 2-0 fastball into the right-field seats in the first inning for his fourth career leadoff homer before clubbing a knuckle curveball over the right-center-field wall in the second.

"There's some days when you see it great right when you step in the box,” Kepler said. “Some days, you don't. It's something that I'm learning how to bat leadoff better with. But some days, I feel antsy and like I'm jumping the gun. Today, I felt calm and I let the ball come to me. It went my way."

In the June matchup, Kepler smashed his three homers against the fastball, changeup and slider once each. During that game, Kepler joined Ted Williams as only the second player in Major League history with multiple three-homer games against the Indians.

“Every pitch is the same to me,” Kepler said. “I have the same approach against every pitcher. Of course, you study their stuff when you have time to see what the ball can do. Just try to simplify and go up there and try to make contact."

What's more: Kepler had not left the yard against Bauer in his career prior to this season and entered Saturday night's game hitting .324 with three homers, eight strikeouts and three walks against the right-hander in 34 at-bats.

Despite the historic run of success, Kepler really couldn’t find any explanation for his domination of Bauer in particular. Neither could Bauer.

“In situations like that, there’s nothing I’m going to really be able to do; he’s just locked in against me for whatever reason,” Bauer said. “Sometimes, guys are just hot and it doesn’t matter what you do to them, they’re going to hit it. And he’s hot off me right now. It won’t be that way forever.”

Cave knocks clutch two-run double for key insurance runs

Despite gaudy numbers in Triple-A Rochester and solid performance in the Major Leagues last season, Cave entered Saturday with a .176/.299/.243 line in 29 games before an early homer and clutch two-run double in the eighth inning spurred the Twins to victory.

“Going up and down and stuff, it's been tough with my approach and my work, which is something you learn,” Cave said. “But the biggest thing I've worked on wasn't my approach; it was to not get beat with what the book to beat me is on.”

Even not considering the results, Cave was happy with how he executed that plan, as he laid off some difficult pitches in that eighth-inning at-bat in particular and worked a 3-1 count before he got the changeup that he was looking for from Tyler Clippard. He was able to line it down the right-field line for the back-breaking double that sealed his first multi-RBI game of the season.

“Obviously, [Kepler is] going to get a lot of the notoriety for what he’s done, but Cave was kind of the difference-maker in the game today,” starter Jake Odorizzi said. “Offensively, big hits for us, and, defensively, he played a solid game.”

Buxton exits game after diving catch

Byron Buxton was removed in the ninth inning of the game after his head hit the ground hard on a diving catch in shallow center field in the eighth. Baldelli couldn’t offer any specifics but said that the Twins just wanted to make sure that Buxton was examined and that it could be a day-to-day situation.

According to Statcast, Buxton covered 78 feet in 4.7 seconds and attained a sprint speed of 30.5 feet per second -- above the “elite” threshold of 30 -- to make the diving snag of an Oscar Mercado line drive.

“I don't have any updates for anyone,” Baldelli said. “I think it is going to be more of a day-to-day type situation with him. But there is nothing really definitive to talk about yet. More than anything, we wanted to make sure we got him looked at and checked out."

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.