ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — The Texas Rangers still have the best record in the American League and are the only defending division champion in the majors going into the All-Star break on top this season.
But the Rangers definitely need this extended midsummer break.
Max Kepler’s grand slam was one of four homers by the Minnesota Twins as the team with the AL’s worst record beat Texas 15-5 on Sunday. It was the Rangers’ ninth loss in 12 games.
“There are points in the season where they don’t look so well, don’t feel so well. Today capped all that off. Hopefully, that’s the bottom,” manager Jeff Banister said. “There’s some times when you’re not playing well, you kind of hope for a rainout. We get a four-day rainout.”
The Rangers (54-36) have a 5 1/2-game lead over Houston in the AL West, their largest ever at the break — but they led the division by 10 games less than two weeks ago.
“These four days come at a perfect time for us,” shortstop Elvis Andrus said.
Kepler’s slam came with two outs in the fifth off A.J. Griffin (3-1), putting the Twins up 6-0.
Griffin gave up nine hits with three strikeouts and a walk in his five innings. That came a day after 37-year-old Kyle Lohse went five innings in his Rangers debut, ending an unwanted club-record streak of seven consecutive games when their starting pitchers didn’t even make it at least five innings.
Minnesota (32-56) won three of four at Texas after taking the last two games of its home series against the Rangers the previous weekend.
Kennys Vargas hit a towering shot to center in the fourth for the game’s first run. Eduardo Escobar and Brian Dozier added back-to-back homers in a seven-run seventh for the Twins, who have won seven of their last nine games — their best stretch of the season.
“We always talk about trusting the process, but when you get good results and win games, you understand how enjoyable it is to go out there and compete and come out and win games,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “I’d like to think that these guys are hungry to win as many games going forward.”
Minnesota has 29 homers the last 15 games, and the Twins’ 140 runs since June 18 are the most in the majors.
Tommy Milone (2-2) struck out three and walked three. The left-hander was out of the game after walking Adrian Beltre to start the sixth, and Ryan Rua promptly grounded into a double play against reliever Taylor Rogers.
Banister told his players to clear their heads, clear their minds and let their bodies heal up for a few days. He also had a message about what he expects when they are together again after the break.
“Get back to what we do best, 27 hard outs, both sides of the baseball,” the manager said. “Focus on defense, run the bases hard, knock some people off the plate if we need to, take the plate back as a pitching staff. Put together a professional at-bat.”
OFF THE BASE — BARELY
Eddie Rosario, coming off a four-hit game for the Twins on Saturday night, clearly slid into second base ahead of the tag in his first at-bat in the second inning Sunday. Banister asked for a replay review, which showed Rosario’s foot just briefly lost contact with the bag while 2B Rougned Odor was still applying a tag. The safe call was overturned for the second out, and Suzuki then had what was an inning-ending flyball instead of a likely sac fly to leave Robbie Grossman stranded at third base.
The Twins matched their season high with 18 hits, first set in the series opener Thursday. … Texas allowed at least 10 runs for the fifth time its last nine games. … Vargas had his third homer in six games since being called up July 4. … Odor had two errors in the eighth.
Rangers: RHP Keone Kela (right elbow) was scheduled to pitch in relief at Double-A Frisco for the second consecutive game Sunday night. If all goes well, he could rejoin the Rangers after the All-Star break.
Rangers: The Rangers open a 10-day, nine-game trip Friday with an interleague series at the Chicago Cubs.