Alex Kirilloff salts away Twins’ 6-3 victory over Mariners

20 July 2023

SEATTLE — Alex Kirilloff started Wednesday’s game against the Mariners hotter than any Twins player but rookie Edouard Julien, who has been, frankly, off the charts.

Kirilloff was hitting .373 with a 1.019 OPS in 15 games before he stepped into the box at T-Mobile Field on Tuesday and struck out in his first three at-bats. But the Twins first baseman got more than three at-bats.

With Michael A. Taylor on first and right-hander Devin Sweet on the mound for Seattle in the ninth inning, Kirilloff sent a 2-1 pitch into the left-field stands for a two-run home run to pad a 4-3 lead and send the Twins to a 6-3 victory in front of 25,825.

The Twins improved to 5-1 on this road trip and increased their lead over second-place Cleveland in the American League Central to 2½ games.

Julien was 1 for 1 with two walks and a solo home run and is now hitting .533 in 12 games this month. Max Kepler also homered as the Twins gave starter Kenta Maeda a 3-0 after five innings.

Max Kepler went 2 for 4 and broke a 3-3 tie when he scored on a passed ball by catcher Tom Murphy in the eighth inning. Emilio Pagan struck out two in a 1-2-3 eighth inning, and Jhoan Duran pitched a dicey ninth for his 16th save.

Seattle’s J.P. Crawford started the ninth by reaching on a throwing error by Kirilloff, and Duran then hit Julio Rodriguez to put two on with no outs. But Duran fanned Jerred Kelenic looking, got Eugenio Suarez on a groundout to short and struck out Mike Ford to end the game.

Maeda was sharp. The veteran right-hander started the game by surrendering a single to Crawford but faced the minimum through five innings — by which time the Twins had given him a 3-0 lead.

He didn’t give up another hit until Tim Murphy hit a one-out, solo home run into the bleachers in left-center field in the bottom of the sixth inning. Maeda then got a pop flyout from Kolten Wong and struck out Crawford to end the inning.

Maeda came back for the sixth and retired Rodriguez on a hard grounder to shortstop Carlos Correa before Kelenic singled to left. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli pulled Maeda and replaced him with right-hander Griffin Jax.

Jax got ahead of righty Suarez, 1-2, but Suarez hammered his next pitch, an 87 mph sweeper, into the left-field stands to tie the score, 3-3. The homer traveled an estimated 424 feet and left the bat at 103.6 mph.

The Twins took the lead in the second when designated hitter Matt Wallner walked to start the inning, moved to second on a single by Kyle Farmer and scored on a two-out single by Ryan Jeffers for a 1-0 lead.

Mariners starter Luis Castillo was nearly as good as Maeda, striking out 11 batters in six innings, but Julien pulled a home run to right field to start the fifth inning to give the Twins a 2-0 lead. After a strikeout by Kirilloff, Kepler made it 3-0 when he homered to left-center field.

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