MILWAUKEE – A switch to a sidearm throwing style this season had helped Jorge Polanco become a better shortstop. Which is why his eighth-inning throw to C.J. Cron stood out — a ball that skidded past Cron, allowed Ryan Braun to reach base, and sparked the Brewers' three-run comeback to beat the Twins.
"Polo went over the top on that ball, and he's been really good throwing from the lower arm slot," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "The new arm stroke this year has done wonders for him. Wednesday was just a tough one."
If only it were just one throw. But fielders sometimes go through slumps, too, and Polanco has had trouble in the field for a few weeks now, and it really stood out in this brief series at Miller Park. On Tuesday, Martin Perez fielded a bunt, spun and threw to Polanco at second base, but the ball hit off the edge of his glove and bounced away for an error. Milwaukee scored moments later on a forceout.
And Wednesday, a double-play ball to Jonathan Schoop turned into another error when Polanco couldn't handle Schoop's low throw. A big inning was averted when Kyle Gibson got another ground ball moments later. Polanco now has 14 errors on the season, but five of them have come in August.
"It's kind of been a tough series defensively. Collectively, we could play better," Baldelli said. "We've definitely given away too many outs, especially in the second half. … [And a] lot of spots have been in crucial type [moments], towards the end of the game."
It's notable that Polanco has played more innings than any Twin, which has led the manager to giving his shortstop nine starts at designated hitter. With Nelson Cruz out with a wrist injury, they could afford to give him more at-bats that way, though Baldelli didn't comment on the team's plans.
Baseball's best closers develop an image of invincibility over time. It doesn't work on the Twins.
In the last month alone, Minnesota has staged rallies and dented the reputations of five different All-Star relievers. Liam Hendriks, Zack Britton, Aroldis Chapman, Brad Hand and Josh Hader have saved a total of 101 games between them this season, but each wore a blown save the last time he faced the Twins.
"I've been really impressed with our at-bats against some really good pitching," Baldelli said.
At-bats like Marwin Gonzalez's that produced a game-winning three-run homer off Hader on Tuesday. Or Ehire Adrianza's score-tying triple off Hendriks in Oakland. Or Miguel Sano's go-ahead blast off Britton in the eighth inning last month.
"Our guys believe in themselves," Baldelli said of his team's lack of fear against elite closers. "Late in the game, never do [we] have the feeling that we're not going to win. We don't care which closer is on the mound. It really doesn't matter."
Gonzalez, who also hit a two-out, bottom-of-the-ninth double against Hand last Sunday, a clutch hit that tied the game and would have won it had the Indians not thrown out Adrianza at the plate, is used to facing the best in big moments. Perhaps the biggest hit of his life was against Dodgers star closer Kenley Jansen, a game-tying, ninth-inning home run in Game 2 of the 2017 World Series.
• Righthander Ryan Eades, who pitched 3 ⅔ scoreless innings in two June appearances for the Twins, was claimed off waivers by the Orioles on Wednesday. Eades, the Twins' second-round draft pick in 2013, was 4-3 with a 5.51 ERA in 29 games for Class AAA Rochester. His departure means the Twins have 39 players on their roster.