MILWAUKEE – Brewers righthander Junior Guerra pitched five shutout innings but was lifted for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the inning. As Nate Orf batted, lefthander Josh Hader — one of baseball’s best relievers — began to warm up.
Orf walked. Two batters later, Eric Thames launched a Jake Odorizzi cut fastball out to right for the first runs of the game.
It was as if the Brewers knew what was going to happen. Now Hader, his floppy hair and 94-96 mph fastball were in the game to protect a lead.
Hader pitched three dominant innings before handing off to closer Corey Knebel in the ninth to wrap up a 2-0 victory over the Twins at Miller Park. The Twins were held to a season-low two hits.
And Hader lowered his ERA to 1.21 with 83 strikeouts in 44⅔ innings.
“He’s dominating, primarily with one pitch,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “I think he’s just kind of a combination of being able to hide the ball and good carry on his fastball. Doesn’t seem to get many down in the zone, pretty much plays the top and you either miss it or you foul it or you pop it up. It’s just tough to square up.”
And, with the loss, the Twins have lost five straight, seven of their past eight and 10 of their last 12. They are 12 games under .500 for the first time since the end of the 2016 season.
Their death march of a road trip concludes Wednesday as they try to avoid getting swept in the three-game series.
Hader fired away, retiring eight straight Twins before walking Eduardo Escobar with two outs in the eighth. Max Kepler dug in as the tying run — and with a .288 batting average against lefties. Hader is not your average lefty, as he got Kepler to pop up a 94 mph fastball to end the inning.
Odorizzi was effective for the second straight outing. In five innings, Odorizzi gave up two runs on four hits and four walks. His nine strikeouts were one shy of his season high.
Twins pitchers struck out 16 Brewers on Tuesday. There were six fly ball outs and two line outs. That means that first baseman Joe Mauer did not record a put-out or an assist the entire game. It was the first time since Toronto’s Edwin Encarnacion on Aug. 25, 2012, that a first baseman played an entire game without participating in an out. It has been done just six other times over the past 20 years.
“I was made known of that fact that there wasn’t a ground ball, which is a baseball oddity,” Molitor said. “Can’t really explain that, other than Odorizzi, we know, is a fly ball guy.”
Lefthander Gabriel Moya is back with a better slider and a better idea of how to be successful in the majors.
“When I got sent down at the beginning of the season, I went down there and tried to work hard,” he said. “My mentality is basically to execute all my pitches, and that’s been working for me.”
After posting a 1.64 ERA over 20 outings for Class AAA Rochester, Moya has been recalled to show if he is, indeed, a different pitcher. He’s been a reverse-split king, holding righthanded hitters to a lower batting average (.227) than lefthanded hitters (.273). That’s where an improved slider could help, and that’s also something Moya has been working on.
He’s also started three games for the Red Wings and is stretched out enough to pitch more than one inning if needed.
“I wouldn’t have any problem trying to get 40-plus pitches off him if I needed to,” Molitor said. “He’s been throwing well.”
Moya proved it with two scoreless innings Tuesday, during which he struck out four batters.