Rangers-Twins preview

BY foxsports • July 3, 2016

Minnesota bounced back from a three-game losing streak in a big way Saturday afternoon, and now the Twins are seeking their biggest series victory of the season in Sunday's finale against the Texas Rangers.

The Twins (26-54) had a historic performance from Max Kepler, who drove in a club rookie record seven runs, blasting a pair of home runs -- including a three-run shot -- as Minnesota cruised to a 17-5 victory at Target Field.

"I think when you have a big day like today and you hit a couple over the fence, it bodes well mentally," Twins manager Paul Molitor said of Kepler.

It was the Twins' biggest offensive output since a 20-run outburst against Detroit on Aug. 22, 2014, and it left them with a chance to take a three-game set against the American League-leading Rangers (52-30).

"We set the tone in the first inning with our sloppy play," said Rangers manager Jeff Banister, whose team surrendered four runs in the frame. "We couldn't get out of the first."

Texas won the opener Friday, using an Ian Desmond solo homer in the 10th inning to claim a 3-2 victory.

The Rangers now turn to staff ace Cole Hamels (9-1, 2.60 ERA) to stop the bleeding and stave off a fourth loss in the last five contests.

The left-hander has been on a roll lately, going 4-0 with a 0.65 ERA in his last four starts. On Tuesday, Hamels tossed seven scoreless innings and struck out seven to silence the New York Yankees in a 7-1 victory.

Unfortunately for Minnesota, home-field advantage likely won't have much of an impact on Hamels, who has won a Rangers' record nine consecutive decisions in road starts. He is 6-0 with a 1.44 ERA on the road this year.

Hamels is 1-0 with a 5.21 ERA in three career starts against Minnesota. Brian Dozier is the only Twins hitter with more than one hit off Hamels, going 2-for-5 with a double.

Dozier extended his on-base streak to a major-league-leading 24 games with a second-inning walk Saturday.

The news wasn't all good for Minnesota on Saturday, as it lost shortstop Eduardo Escobar to a left hamstring strain in the second inning after he sustained the injury when sliding into home an inning earlier.

Twins manager Paul Molitor said Escobar would be re-evaluated Sunday.

Kyle Gibson (1-5, 5.12 ERA) will be tasked with completing the Twins' series victory, making his fourth career start against Texas.

The right-hander is 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA against the Rangers, and he's looking to build on an encouraging outing his last time out.

Gibson pitched seven scoreless innings Tuesday in a 4-0 road win against the Chicago White Sox, allowing just five hits and a walk while fanning a season-high seven.

He hadn't tossed a scoreless outing since last Sept. 30, a nine-strikeout performance over six innings at Cleveland.

Elvis Andrus is 3-for-10 with a home run and two RBIs against Gibson. Robinson Chirinos (4-for-5) has also taken Gibson deep. Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre also have two hits apiece against Gibson.

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