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Max Kepler hits walk-off, saves Twins after blowing seven-run lead

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The Twins hung an eight-spot in the bottom of the fourth inning against Astros starter Lance McCullers, two of which scored on a Max Kepler home run, to take an 8-1 lead. But the Twins watched that seven-run lead evaporate as the Astros scored four runs in the fifth and one in the sixth, then rallied for two more runs in the top of the ninth to tie the game.

Kepler saved the Twins in the bottom of the ninth, drilling a 3-2 slider from Brad Peacock into the stands in right field for a walk-off solo home run, his second dinger of the day.

According to MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger, Twins manager Paul Molitor was talking extra-innings strategy with his coaches when Kepler hit his walk-off home run. Kepler didn’t want to see the game go into extras.

Kepler is now batting .281/.395/.625 with three home runs, five RBI, and four runs scored in 38 plate appearances on the season.

The Twins, now 6-4, won two of three games against the defending World Series champions. They went 1-5 against them last year.

Major League Baseball to launch an elite league for high schoolers

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This morning Major League Baseball announced a new elite league for high school baseball players who are likely to be drafted. It’s called the Prospect Development Pipeline League. It’ll start next summer and it’ll invite 80 of the best current high school juniors to play in a league in Florida from June through early July, culminating in an All-Star Game during MLB’s All-Star week.

The idea behind the league: to combat the current system in which a couple of pay-to-play, for-profit showcase leagues dominate the pre-draft season. Major League Baseball, schools and a lot of players’ parents have criticized this system because it favors rich kids who can afford to play in them. Major League Baseball is also likely quite keen on having greater control over the training, health and physical monitoring of prospects.

As Jeff Passan notes in his report about this, there will be a component of the program which involves live data-tracking of players during games and drills. Major League Baseball has become increasingly interested in such things but is limited in how much it can do in this regard due to labor agreements. There is no such impediment with high schoolers. Your mileage will vary when it comes to how you feel about that, I presume.