Max Kepler, center, celebrates with his teammates after driving in the winning run in the ninth inning Thursday against the Red Sox in Minneapolis. Craig Lassig/Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — Max Kepler delivered the sigh-of-relief winner for Minnesota on the last day of a rough first homestand of the season.

The Boston Red Sox relentlessly kept the Twins from being comfortable all series.

Kepler’s bloop RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning gave Minnesota a 4-3 victory Thursday over Boston – stopping a five-game losing streak for the Twins and breaking a nine-game winning string for the Red Sox.

“It’s impossible to go out and play baseball and not feel it when it’s going really well or when it’s not going really well. It’s really how you harness that,” Manager Rocco Baldelli said.

Luis Arraez, ever the team sparkplug, let those emotions loose as he raced home on Kepler’s hit off Adam Ottavino (1-1) and belly-flopped into home plate.

“It’s a tough week, but we won the game,” said Arraez, who went 4 for 5 with a two-run single. “I think it’s a good start for us.”

The Twins avoided matching their longest losing streak in three years under Baldelli – a six-game slide from July 31 to Aug. 5 last season.

The Red Sox, who tied it in the eighth on Alex Verdugo’s three-run double, were on their longest winning streak since a 10-game run in 2018, the season they won the World Series.

“We ended up losing a game with a jam shot to center field. That’s not bad,” said Manager Alex Cora, who was ejected for arguing a foul-tip call in the eighth. “We just beat the American League Central champions, three out of four. We’ve been playing good baseball.”

Alex Colomé (1-1) pitched a scoreless ninth for the victory, despite a one-out double by Christian Arroyo. Verdugo capped a 10-pitch at-bat against Taylor Rogers with his two-out double that made it 3-all. The Red Sox had loaded the bases against Hansel Robles.

Five times during their winning streak, the Red Sox rallied from a deficit in the fifth inning or later.

“It’s been fun. I told you guys earlier in the year that this is a sneaky good team,” said Garrett Richards, who stretched Boston’s streak of 10 straight games with the starting pitcher completing at least five innings. The two runs he allowed were unearned.

Michael Pineda allowed only two singles over seven scoreless innings for the Twins, who got a home run by slump-ridden slugger Miguel Sanó in the sixth.

Pineda’s career-best winning streak remained at eight – a 15-start stretch with a 2.70 ERA dating to July 26, 2019. The big right-hander served a 60-game suspension for taking a banned weight loss drug, bridging the last two seasons.

Using his trusty slider to help tame the top-scoring team in the American League, Pineda retired 14 straight batters between Kiké Hernández’s leadoff single and an infield hit by Xander Bogaerts. He walked one and struck out six, throwing 88 pitches.

“That was just a fabulous outing,” Baldelli said.


During a tense week in the Twin Cities, with the opener of this series postponed in the aftermath of a fatal police shooting of a Black man, the annual day to honor trailblazer Jackie Robinson felt especially poignant.

“I’m not a big league player or a big league manager without Jackie Robinson,” said Cora, who is from Puerto Rico.


The Twins won two challenges in the second inning. Christian Vázquez had a hit by pitch become a groundout in the top of the inning, when replays showed Pineda’s fastball plunked the knob of his bat. In the bottom of the frame, Sanó was initially called out on a slide into second after a fielder’s choice grounder to first, but Arroyo’s toe came off the side of the base as he leaned forward to catch the relay. Arraez gave the Twins the lead three batters after the reversal.


The last time the Twins were swept in a four-game series by the Red Sox was July 3-6, 2000, at the Metrodome. Boston swept three-game series in Minnesota in 2012 and 2013 and at Fenway Park in 2005, 2008 and 2014. The Red Sox were the first opponent to play at Target Field and are 21-13 there.


Red Sox: Designated hitter J.D. Martinez and infielder Marwin Gonzalez were out of the starting lineup to rest, four games into a stretch of 14 games in 13 days. “We’ve just got to be careful with the workload with all those guys,” Cora said.

Twins: Baldelli kept centerfielder Byron Buxton and third baseman Josh Donaldson on the bench as a hamstring precaution. Buxton missed the Wednesday doubleheader, too, while Donaldson returned from the injured list in the second game. … Right-hander Shaun Anderson was recalled from the alternate training site in St. Paul, a fresh-arm swap for right-hander Cody Stashak, who has 12 strikeouts and four runs allowed in five innings.

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