MILWAUKEE – Once the Twins started scoring on Wednesday, they did not stop.
That was a nice change of pace for an offense that has had a strong tendency to drive in runs early in games and then doze off.
Not this time, however, as the Twins produced a couple of crooked-number innings while routing the Brewers 12-2 behind a season-high 15 hits to win the rubber game of the three-game series. Byron Buxton hit two home runs, all nine starters had a hit by the fourth inning and Kenta Maeda breezed to his 50th career victory.
A few scuffling Twins used Brewers pitching to right themselves. Mitch Garver, batting .111 entering the game, had three hits, one shy of his season total entering the game. Miguel Sano, batting .125 entering the game, belted a 442-foot home run. Luis Arraez, the contact expert who had struck out twice in each of his two previous games, had two hits and a walk in his first three plate appearances.
Community slump-busting can do wonders for an offense that hasn’t been operating at full throttle.
“The at-bats were unrelenting and that’s what we’re looking for,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “It wasn’t about just a couple of big swings that got us where we needed to be. It was a completely team effort in its entirety.”
The engine was purring perfectly when the Twins embarked on the eight-game road trip. They were 9-2 at the time. By Wednesday, they were 2-5 on the trip and that engine wasn’t fit for a hooptie. The failure to sustain offense led to blown leads against Kansas City and Pittsburgh, a pair of last-place teams a year ago, then another to Milwaukee on Tuesday. The Twins have scored 53 runs in the first three innings of games but just 13 after six. That’s a little lopsided.
They jumped on Brewers lefthander Eric Lauer for five runs on five hits and a walk in the second inning Wednesday, as nine Twins batted. Sano hit his bomba in the third inning and Marwin Gonzalez added an RBI double in the fourth.
It made things easy for Maeda as the righthander improved to 3-0 with his 50th career victory. His slider and changeup were wicked, as he was perfect until Christian Yelich’s single in the fourth inning and pitching a shutout until the Brewers got two runs in the sixth. At 68 pitches through six innings, Maeda took the mound for the seventh, the first time a Twins starter had done so this season.
“It was just a really, really impressive start,” Garver said. “I think that’s the sharpest I’ve seen him all year.”
Maeda was handed a 12-0 lead, as the Twins scored four runs in the fifth, including Buxton’s first homer of the game, then another in the sixth as Buxton connected again.
“I think those middle innings are so important because if you’re up 5-0 in the sixth, a couple bloops and a blast and it’s another ballgame,” Garver said. “So that’s where those middle innings really come in and we’re able to tack on one in the third, the fourth, the fifth, and then we added a few more late.”
Maeda lasted 6⅔ innings, giving up two earned runs on five hits and one walk with five strikeouts.
And the Twins headed home after a road trip that was disappointing overall. But they sure earned that off day.
They will need it because they have games on 20 consecutive days beginning Friday.
“It was just a good night all the way around,” Baldelli said. “Just a very, very good night, especially going into the off day and then getting back home. It was very nice.”