Kepler reaches Twins milestone in career season

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              Minnesota Twins' Max Kepler (26) celebrates in the dugout after hitting his second home run of the day against the Chicago White Sox during the seventh inning of a baseball game Saturday, June 29, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Jeff Haynes)
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With Eddie Rosario, the club’s home run leader for much of the season, on the injured list, the Minnesota Twins needed someone to step up.

Despite dealing with an injury of his own, fellow outfielder Max Kepler has done the honors.

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Kepler, who was hit in the elbow by a pitch last week, sat Sunday after hitting two more home runs Saturday in a 10-3 win over the Chicago White Sox.

He now leads the Twins with a career-high 21 home runs through 75 games and ranks second with a .548 slugging percentage heading into a three-game series with the Oakland A’s on Tuesday.

It’s a major step forward for Kepler, who hit 20 home runs a season ago and hit just eight homers through the first 75 games of the 2018 season.

It’s an early-season Minnesota milestone: Harmon Killebrew is the only other Twins player to hit 20-plus home runs by June 30 since the former Washington Senators moved to Minnesota in 1961.

Killebrew did it four times, setting a Twins record with 28 home runs through June 30 during the 1964 season.

Kepler and Rosario have been among the American League’s most productive hitters so far this season.

Just six hitters in the AL have 20-plus home runs, 50-plus RBI and 50-plus runs scored: Rosario, Kepler, Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels, Edwin Encarnacion of the New York Yankees, Matt Chapman of the Oakland A’s and Alex Bregman of the Houston Astros.

The Twins lead the majors with 157 home runs, but the A’s aren’t far behind. Oakland is up to 133 home runs, tied for sixth overall.

Both teams are emphasizing launch angle to great effect. The Twins have the third-highest in the majors at 13.9 degrees, while the A’s are just behind at 13.2 degrees.

Chapman, Matt Olson and Khris Davis have led the way.

Olson in particular has come on strong since spending the first month of the season on the injured list. Olson has 16 home runs since May 7, tied for third in the majors over that span.

Statistics courtesy of Sportradar