Max Kepler guessed right on Brad Peacock's 3-2 slider and drilled it into the right field seats for a 9-8 walk-off homer on Wednesday that captured the series for Minnesota and knocked the Astros out of first place in the A.L. West division.
Kepler (middle) loves the post-game mob
(c) Getty Images
The Twins had stuck for eight runs in the fourth against Lance McCullers and appeared to have a comfortable seven-run lead. A bases-clearing triple by Eddie Rosario and a two-run homer from Kepler highlighted the uprising. McCullers had the shortest outing from an Astros starter this year, lasting just 3-2/3rd innings and giving up eight runs, seven hits, six walks and a wild pitch.
Relievers held the fort while the offense finally broke out in the 44-degree weather. Alex Bregman started the comeback with a double off Kyle Gibson then Houston strung together five consecutive singles to plate four runs and draw to within three.
Bregman, who had four hits for the afternoon, slugged his first homer of the year in the sixth, a solo shot into the bullpen in left-center. That made it 8-6, Minnesota.
That score stood until the ninth inning when Fernando Rodney entered to close it out for the Twins. Evan Gattis and J.D. Davis singled with one out and Marwin Gonzalez walked to load the bases. Next, George Springer smashed a bouncer that looked like a game-ending 3-6-1 double play but Brian Dozier's relay back to Rodney at first sailed wide as Springer made a desperation dive into the bag. Two-runners scored on the error and the game was tied.
Peacock, who had worked the eighth, retired the first two batters in the ninth before Kepler's game-winner which delighted most of the 15,000 fans in attendance.
The 9-4 Astros now get a day off to thaw before starting a brief three-game homestand against the 4-10 Rangers from Arlington who have dropped their last four games, including three to first-place Anaheim. Cole Hamels (1-2), whom Houston beat on Opening Day, will pitch the 7:10 p.m. Central Friday opener against Gerrit Cole (1-0) who is sporting a 0.64 ERA with 22 strikeouts and a 0.71 WHIP in his first 14 innings as an Astro.
Both teams are hoping for someone named Cole to snap their losing streak.
Meanwhile, the Astros are expected to activate Yuli Gurriel on Friday from the disabled list. Davis is the player most likely to be sent down after a deceptive .250 average (.607 OPS) in 24 at bats to begin the season.
- Bob Hulsey