Ricky Nolasco threw 89 decent, good or great pitches Wednesday night, mostly the latter, and one really bad one. With that kind of ratio, he’s not going to obsess over the baseball that landed 400 feet away.
Especially since Oswaldo Arcia hit one that might have traveled farther.
“I’m not going to let one pitch ruin my night,” Nolasco said after Arcia erased the righthander’s one-inning hiccup with a three-run tape-measure blast of his own, carrying the Twins to a 6-4 victory over the Brewers. “Obviously I’d like to have it back, but at the same time, [Aramis Ramirez] is a proven power threat. … Sometimes it happens.”
It does, but it matters much less when Arcia puts on a hitting display like this one. With two runners on in the fourth inning, the second-year outfielder snapped at an inside fastball and cannoned it off the top of the right field foul pole, perhaps the only thing keeping that baseball in the Central Time Zone. “You don’t really have to run on that ball because you know it’s hit so far,” said Josh Willingham, who was standing on first base. “I just sort of watched it and saw it clip the foul pole.”
And the most amazing part of Arcia’s night was this: That titanic blast wasn’t even his most impressive at-bat. No, it was a much more gentle swing, almost a return of serve three innings later, that most shocked the Brewers. With the score tied 4-4 and Willingham on second base, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, wary of Arcia, called upon his secret lefty-killing weapon: reliever Will Smith, who possesses a diving slider that lefthanders find irresistible. How irresistible? Smith had faced 37 lefthanded hitters this season, struck out 18 of them, walked only four and surrendered only four feeble singles for a .121 batting average.
Arcia swung and missed a couple of Smith’s sliders, and took a couple of off-speed pitches out of the zone. Then he used a smooth, half-speed swing to push a slider into right field. Smith seemed so surprised by the hit, he jogged into Willingham’s path as the Twins outfielder neared home plate. The collision was ruled interference, but it didn’t matter; Willingham beat the throw from Ryan Braun anyway, and the Twins were on their way to their fourth victory in six games, and seventh in their past eight against Milwaukee.
The victory was a lot more difficult than it could have been, considering how locked in Nolasco was most of the night. He needed only 89 pitches to get through seven innings, mostly because all but 27 were strikes, and he didn’t walk a batter for only the second time all year. Nolasco retired 18 of the first 20 batters he faced, including 13 in a row entering the seventh.
“I went out there for the majority of time and thought I threw the ball well,” said Nolasco, who won his second consecutive start to improve to 4-5. “My command of the fastball, that kind of led to a couple of mistakes I made there in the seventh. I maybe felt so comfortable with [my] fastball command, I missed a couple of times, and they made me pay.”
They did. Nolasco threw ball one to Jonathan Lucroy, and he promptly singled. Ball one to Carlos Gomez, he promptly singled. Ball one to Aramis Ramirez, who was returning after three weeks out because of a strained left hamstring — and then a fastball over the plate.
“Aramis has been in the league for a long time, and I haven’t faced him for a long time. He made me pay,” Nolasco said of the three-run drive into straightaway center. “He did a good job laying off that first one, a good ground-ball pitch. Then [he] just kind of zeroed me up right there, crushed me dead center.”
But consider that a mere asterisk on his night. Arcia made it one.