Kepler, Polanco power Twins past AL Central-leading Chicago

Jul 21, 2021, 8:48 AM | Updated: 10:16 pm

CHICAGO (AP) — Max Kepler homered for a second straight game, Jorge Polanco also went deep, and the Minnesota Twins beat the Chicago White Sox 7-2 on Wednesday night.

The Twins beat the AL Central leaders for just the fourth time in 16 games. They bounced back after Chicago rallied late to win Tuesday’s game and came out on top after losing five of six.

“We added some runs and never really let it get close,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “That’s a good feeling. We don’t have to let the game get close. We can put the other team away and play a game like we did tonight. That was really, really nice.”

Kepler gave the Twins a 1-0 lead when he led off the third inning by sending a low curve from Chicago starter Dylan Cease (7-6) ringing off the right field foul pole.

“Maybe I just see the ball a little better off him than others,” Kepler said of Cease, whom he also singled off of in the first. “I stayed through that curveball, and I think it’s the first ball I’ve ever hit in my career, anywhere, off the foul pole. So that was special.”

Polanco singled and scored in a two-run fifth. He made it 6-1 in the sixth with a three-run homer into the right-field bullpen against Codi Heuer.

Michael Pineda (4-5) went five innings, allowing one run and four hits, in his first win since May 26. He was 0-3 in his previous four starts.

Cease gave up three runs and seven hits in five innings. The 25-year-old right-hander is 0-3 in his last four starts.

“I wasn’t executing pitches very well early on,” Cease said. “I came out a little slow. I don’t feel like I really started executing very well until about the third. Swing and miss was alright. But it’s one of those, it was an unfortunate game.”

Adam Engel had an RBI single in the third. Andrew Vaughn doubled in a run in the eighth. But the White Sox lost after winning nine of 11.

MERCEDES LEAVING BASEBALL

White Sox rookie catcher Yermín Mercedes, who helped carry Chicago with his bat early in the season and got sent to the minors following a prolonged slump, says he is stepping away from baseball.

Mercedes announced his decision on Instagram on Wednesday. He posted an image of the words “it’s over.”

The 28-year-old Mercedes sparked Chicago’s offense through the opening months of the season, batting .415 with five homers and 16 RBIs in 22 games in April. In May, Mercedes angered manager Tony La Russa by homering on a 3-0 pitch in the ninth inning of a game the White Sox led 15-4.

The catcher eventually cooled off, hitting .150 (16 for 107) over his final 31 games with Chicago before being demoted to Triple-A Charlotte on July 2.

White Sox manager Tony La Russa said he plans to reach out to Mercedes. He said he has a “big league future.”

In a statement, the White Sox said: “At this point in time, the White Sox have not received any official notification from Yermín concerning his future plans.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Twins: Minnesota OF/1B Alex Kirilloff has been placed on the 10-day injured list with a right wrist ligament tear (retroactive to July 20). Surgery to repair the ligament has been scheduled for later this week. “It was something that he was playing through,” Baldelli said of Kirilloff’s tear. “We knew there could be a point in the year where he just could not continue playing through this and the smart thing to do would be to have the procedure.” … The Twins have recalled C/INF Willians Astudillo from Triple-A St. Paul to replace Kirilloff. Astudillo logged 41 games for Minnesota earlier this season, hitting .254 (31-for-122) with four doubles, four home runs, 12 RBI and a .661 OPS before being optioned to Triple-A on June 19.

UP NEXT

Twins: Minnesota sends RHP Kenta Maeda (4-3, 4.71) to the mound as it opens a four-game series at home against the Angels Thursday night. LHP Andrew Heaney (5-7, 5.56) starts for Los Angeles.

White Sox: The White Sox open a three-game series at NL Central-leading Milwaukee on Friday night, with RHP Lucas Giolito (8-6, 3.90 ERA) pitching for Chicago against Brewers RHP Freddy Peralta (7-3, 2.39 ERA).

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Kepler, Polanco power Twins past AL Central-leading Chicago