The Twins were forced to win Wednesday night’s game twice against the Milwaukee Brewers. Oswaldo Arcia took care of both challenges.
The Twins were trailing 1-0 in the fourth inning when Arcia hit a smash down the right field line. The ball kissed off the top third of the foul pole. Arcia took a long look and then cruised the bases with a three-run homer.
The lead was pushed to 4-1 by the seventh, and it looked like more than enough with Ricky Nolasco showing the best stuff of his dozen starts with the Twins.
Nolasco was on a streak of 13 batters retired, when the Brewers’ mischievous Jonathan Lucroy opened the seventh with a single. Carlos Gomez followed with another single. Aramis Ramirez, back in the lineup after a 21-game absence, bombed a three-run homer to center.
All three hits came on 1-0 pitches, meaning the three-run lead had disappeared in a total of six pitches.
Nolasco finished the seventh and went to the dugout, knowing he was done pitching for the night and contemplating how he allowed this victory to get away.
Rob Wooten came in for the Brewers to get two outs, and then Josh Willingham — a hot hitter in recent days — doubled to the scoreboard in right-center field. This brought up Arcia, and Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke went to his antidote for lefthanded hitters: Will Smith.
Lefthanders were batting .121 against Smith. Those same lefties had struck out 18 times in 33 at-bats. Most of those K’s came on his sweeping slider.
“We saw that guy in Kansas City last year, and I think he struck out 10 of our guys in a row,’’ batting coach Tom Brunansky said. “He was just the pitcher of the month for the Brewers. That was a tough matchup for Oswaldo.’’
Smith busted a couple of fastballs in on Arcia and then went with the slider. On a 2-2 count, catcher Lucroy was set up on the outside corner. Smith didn’t get the slider all the way there. Arcia reached down and hooked the ball into right field.
Willingham came around third and there wasn’t much of a throw from right fielder Ryan Braun. The pitcher, Smith, crossed the runner’s path, and Willingham came tumbling home with the lead run.
Smith said of Arcia’s single: “Obviously, you want it farther away, down in the dirt. You can’t make perfect pitches every time.’’
That’s what Arcia was hoping for: a pitch from the Brewers’ dominant lefty that would give him a fighting chance.
“The pitch was down but in the middle of the plate, and Oswaldo was able to get to it,’’ Brunansky said.
Arcia’s fourth RBI of the night made it 5-4, and he scored from second on Trevor Plouffe’s single down the right field line. Six outs from Casey Fien and Glen Perkins followed and the Twins had a 6-4 victory.
Arcia’s home run off starter Marco Estrada also came on a pitch that showed some extra hitting talent. It was pitch in on him that required Arcia to pull in his hands and generate tremendous force.
“It’s hard to do that on a pitch in there and keep the ball fair,’’ manager Ron Gardenhire said.
It was only by a fraction of the foul pole that the ball was fair. Arcia stayed at the plate and watched. This can get a hitter — especially a young one — in trouble with the opposition.
There was an excuse for Arcia: He saw the ball hooking and was waiting to find out if it was fair.
“We’ll go with that … Oswaldo was waiting to see if it was fair,’’ Gardenhire said.
Estrada drilled Brian Dozier with a fastball that did not look accidental an inning later. It’s anybody’s guess as to why Dozier was hit, if the Brewers were mad at Arcia.
One obvious thing: Manager Ron Roenicke and the Brewers were unhappy with the work of plate umpire Andy Fletcher for most of the night.
Brunansky was asked how it was that Arcia kept his hands inside and generated that power? Bruno rolled his eyes upward with a “because-he-can’’ look.
“Arcia and [Josmil] Pinto, too … those two guys are mule strong,’’ Brunansky said.
Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500.