MINNEAPOLIS — Following Fernando Rodney's first blown save with Minnesota, Twins manager Paul Molitor took the long-game approach and began talking strategy in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Max Kepler stepped to the plate and negated any further planning.
Kepler hit his second home run of the game, connecting for a solo drive with two outs in the bottom of the ninth as the Twins bounced back from a late collapse to beat the Houston Astros 9-8 on Wednesday.
"We're talking strategy in the dugout and the next thing you know, the game's over," Molitor said.
After the Twins blew an 8-1 lead, Kepler homered with two strikes off Brad Peacock (1-1).
"I wasn't really expecting anything," Kepler said of his second career walkoff homer. "I was just in battle mode, trying to put the ball in play. I struck out the at-bat before. I hate striking out, so I was just trying to put it in play."
Kepler also hit a two-run homer to cap an eight-run fourth, an inning that included Eddie Rosario's bases-loaded triple. Rodney (1-1) gave up two runs — one earned — on two hits and a walk in one inning.
A throwing error by second baseman Brian Dozier helped Houston tie it in the ninth against Rodney. Down 8-6, the Astros loaded the bases with one out. George Springer grounded into an RBI forceout, and the tying run scored when Dozier threw wide to first trying for a double play.
"There was a lot in that game that could've gone a little bit better for us, but obviously I'm proud of the way we fought back," Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. "They hung in there, too, and they came back from a tough blow losing an 8-1 lead. Weird game all the way around. For them to win on one swing is frustrating."
A series that had been marked by cold weather, walks and strikeouts finally saw a bit of offense after both starters faltered in the middle innings.
The first-pitch temperature was 44 degrees after starting in the 30s at night the previous two days. The teams combined for 32 walks and 61 strikeouts in the three-game series.
Lance McCullers Jr. allowed a career-high eight runs in 3 2/3 innings for Houston. He gave up seven hits, tied a career high with six walks and struck out six.
"I had a game plan going into the game that maybe doesn't fit what I do best," McCullers said. "That's on me. I've got to kind of have a better idea of what I really want to do and what I feel comfortable with."
Alex Bregman had a career-high four hits, including his first homer of the season for the Astros.