MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Max Kepler thought the Minnesota Twins’ lineup might be more dangerous at the plate this year, just not this dangerous.
Kepler led off with a home run on Dylan Bundy’s first pitch, Byron Buxton also homered and the Minnesota beat Baltimore 4-1 Sunday to sweep their six-game season series against the Orioles.
Minnesota hit 23 home runs in the series, topping its most in a year against the Orioles. The Twins hit 22 in 1962 and again in 1964 — when the teams played 18 games against each other each year.
“I looked at it before spring training, looked at the lineup, and I was like, ‘Wow, this is a scary lineup if everyone stays healthy, mentally in the right place. It’s going to be scary,'” Kepler said.
Kepler had four home runs in the series as the Twins increased their season total to 49, second in the AL behind Seattle. Minnesota was 12th in the AL last year with 166.
Minnesota set a team record with 12 homers in a three-game series — one more than the Twins hit last weekend at Baltimore.
“Did we think we might hit a fair amount of home runs? You think it’s possible, but it doesn’t mean it adds up to wins,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Empty home runs and things like that don’t necessarily matter as much. It’s the quality of the at-bats as a whole.”
Baltimore has given up 71 homers in 29 games; St. Louis is second in the majors with 51. After a 4-1 start, the Orioles have lost 18 of their last 24 games, resembling the team that lost 115 games last year.
“We’ve got to bounce back — and do so quickly,” said first baseman Chris Davis, who hit his third home run of the season. “We don’t have any other choice unless we want the season to go on and have a repeat of last year.”
Kyle Gibson (2-0) gave up three hits in seven innings, including Davis’ home run in his final inning. He struck out six and walked none.
Trevor Hildenberger pitched a one-hit eighth, and Blake Parker retired the side in order for his fifth save in five chances, finishing a four-hitter.
Kepler started the first with his seventh home run, going deep for his third straight at-bat. He jumped on a first-pitch fastball for his second leadoff homer this season.
“As the leadoff, working a good long at-bat or hitting a good pitch the first pitch, there’s multiple ways you can have a quality at-bat,” Kepler said. “I think this team has been having a lot so far.”
Buxton hit his first of the year leading off the third inning, a 400-foot drive into the second deck in left field. Kepler followed with a double and, after a pair of walks, Marwin Gonzalez got jammed but managed to bloop a two-run single into short center field.
“Sometimes it doesn’t matter if you execute your pitch, they can still get a hit,” said Bundy (0-4), who allowed four runs and five hits in five innings.
GIBSON GETTING IT DONE
Gibson, who lowered his ERA from 6.10 to 4.88, has beaten the Orioles in back-to-back starts. He went into Sunday’s game anticipating a different approach from the Baltimore hitters.
“We came in thinking about maybe how they would change, and if they were going to be more aggressive early on,” Gibson said, crediting catcher Mitch Garver. “He just read the situation really well and started calling first-pitch curveballs, first-pitch changeups, quite a bit, and we were able to capitalize on that a little bit.”
SHARING THE WEALTH
When Gonzalez stole second base in the eighth inning, he became the first Twins player other than Buxton to steal a base this season. Buxton has stolen six bases in seven attempts. The rest of the team was 0 for 3 before Gonzalez took second as Garver struck out on a full-count pitch against Miguel Castro.
“Hey, any base we can get to get that 90 feet to help us get a run,” Buxton said with a grin. “It don’t matter how we do it.”
Orioles: OF Trey Mancini, AL hits leader in hits, missed the game with a bruised right index finger he suffered in Saturday’s game. Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde categorized Mancini’s status as day-to-day. … RHP Alex Cobb was placed on the 10-day IL with a strained lower back. Cobb is 0-2 with a 10.95 ERA in three starts so far this season. Baltimore also sent RHP Jimmy Yacabonis to Triple-A Norfolk and designated catcher Jesús Sucre for assignment. C Austin Wynns, RHP Branden Kline and RHP Luis Ortiz were recalled from Norfolk.
Twins: Placed utility man Willians Astudillo on the 10-day IL with a left hamstring strain. Astudillo, who has started games at catcher, first base, third base and right field so far this year, was injured while scoring on a sacrifice fly Saturday. He was replaced on the roster by OF Jake Cave, who had been optioned to Triple-A Rochester on Wednesday.
Orioles: Rookie LHP John Means (3-2, 1.74) starts Monday’s series opener at the White Sox after allowing one run over five innings to beat Chicago on April 24.
Twins: RHP Jake Odorizzi (2-2) will try to beat the Astros for the second time in a week when the teams open a four-game series on Monday at Target Field. Odorizzi gave up two runs in 5 2/3 innings at Houston on April 22.