MILWAUKEE – It’s not often the Twins will leave a series against the Yankees and step up in class.
That might be happening this week in Dairyland as the Twins encounter a Brewers team that was overlooked in the National League before a red-hot April had them sitting on top of the Central Division. They haven’t left since. The Twins were coming off a series in New York where they took two of three games.
The Brewers eased their way to a 6-2 victory on Monday in interleague play, and all areas of their game were superior. The Twins paid for bad pitches, made technical and tactical errors in the field, failed in run-scoring situations — again — and were fortunate to score the two runs they pushed across late in the game.
Brewers righthander Matt Garza threw 6⅓ scoreless innings to set the tone for the evening at Miller Park. He revved his fastball up to 94 miles per hour when needed, but he also used his sinker and changeup to hold the Twins to six hits and two walks while striking out eight.
Garza entered the game with a 8.18 ERA in the first inning but stranded a runner on second to get out of that frame unscathed. Joe Mauer was 3-for-5 with two doubles, but Garza struck him out when it counted — with two out and runners on second and third to end the fifth. In three career starts against the Twins, Garza is 1-1 with a 1.77 ERA.
“We didn’t see that nasty slider like we thought we would,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said, “but he had a changeup that was diving all over the place.”
Twins righthander Kyle Gibson entered the game with a 1-3 record and a 7.77 ERA on the road, but didn’t pitch poorly. The Brewers made their own breaks in the fourth and capitalized on Gibson’s one bad mistake in the fifth.
Gibson retired the first nine batters he faced, but Jean Segura opened the fourth with a bunt single toward third base. When the count was 2-0, third baseman Trevor Plouffe, who was playing in, dropped back. Two pitches later, Segura exploited the space Plouffe left.
Segura moved to second on Ryan Braun’s groundout and scored the first run of the game on Jonathan Lucroy’s single to center. Danny Santana, playing center Monday, overthrew the cutoff man, an error that enabled Lucroy to take second. Lucroy then scored when Carlos Gomez followed with a single up the middle. The little things.
Scooter Gennett opened the fifth with a double and Mark Reynolds followed with his team-high 13th homer, an opposite-field blast to right. Gardenhire thought Gibson (4-5) — who had just gotten his first major league hit with a single to right in the top half of the inning and had to run the bases — had lost his concentration.
“I just made the wrong pitch,” said Gibson, who threw a straight fastball instead of a sinker.
The Twins were 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position, getting RBI infield singles from Josh Willingham and Brian Dozier in the eighth and ninth innings, respectively.
Gibson was perhaps one bad pitch from a much better outing. That still might not have been enough.
“You still feel like you have a chance with these guys,” Gardenhire said. “Even late in the game. We have to keep playing that way.”