MILWAUKEE – What a pleasant Easter Weekend in Wisconsin for the Twins. They weren't going to let one bad inning ruin a great three-game running start to the 2021 season.
Sure, they leave with the nagging feeling that they could have, and should have, swept the Brewers, but Sunday's 8-2 joy ride felt to the Twins like a real statement about the makeup of their team.
"We're fighting. We're coming in a new game, and we're going to play baseball and enjoy the game," said Luis Arraez, who epitomized that philosophy by reaching base five times Sunday, laughing all the way. "We're fighting, fighting, and then we win the game."
Outside of Josh Donaldson's hamstring injury and Alexander Colome's ninth-inning blowup that cost the Twins their opener Thursday at American Family Field, the Twins looked like a two-time division winner with ambitions for a third. They scored 15 runs in three games while their pitching staff surrendered only two earned runs. Their pitching dominated Saturday, and their hitting overwhelmed the Brewers on Sunday.
Even without Donaldson, Nelson Cruz and, in the finale, Byron Buxton, who departed because of illness, the Twins walked off with a season-opening series victory. Of note: They also opened each of manager Rocco Baldelli's first two seasons with a series victory en route to a pair of 4-1 starts.
"It's a new team. To come in here and face a very good Brewers club on the road to start the year, face some excellent pitching and go out there and play a good series, it feels good," Baldelli said. "The guys are enjoying it. Everyone's having a good time, as we should."
Adding to the fun: The Twins found a leadoff hitter, restored Max Kepler's batting stroke and they even shook loose a few more home runs.
Arraez was a cheery, carefree presence at the top of the lineup all weekend, going 6-for-12 for the series with three walks.
"It doesn't matter who he's facing. Nothing matters. He has great at-bats, period," Baldelli said. "And when he has those kinds of at-bats, it gets us rolling."
Then there's the run production of Kepler, who drove in a first-inning run with a groundout and two more with a sixth-inning single and, after an all-but-silent spring, owns a .286 average and leads the team with four RBI.
"Confidence can wane [after a 3-for-41 spring], but to be honest, Kep came in with a great frame of mind. He kept working and he's had really, really good at-bats the whole series," Baldelli said. "You would have no idea that he had a spring that he'd like to forget."
And finally, there's the Twins' power, absent but for Buxton in the series' first two games but on display twice Sunday. Mitch Garver lifted a fly ball into the right field corner for his first homer in the fifth inning, and Miguel Sano sliced one a few inches over the wall in the sixth, driving in Kepler ahead of him.
Meanwhile, Michael Pineda shut down the Brewers in his typical messy-but-effective way. The righthander gave up four hits and two walks in five innings, but only a dropped ground ball by second baseman Jorge Polanco prevented him from keeping the Brewers off the scoreboard. Milwaukee loaded the bases in the fifth, but Pineda struck out Avisail Garcia on a high 92-mile-per-hour fastball to end the threat, and his day.
"My whole thing was winning the game," Pineda said of his 81-pitch performance, which earned him a victory in his first career start in Milwaukee. "I'm excited for my first start, my team winning. I won the game — it's awesome!"
And so was the bullpen, yet again. One day after three relievers contributed three scoreless innings, Cody Stashak took over for Pineda in the sixth, giving up a leadoff home run to Jackie Bradley Jr. and then walking Luis Urias. Nobody knew it, but that was the last of the Milwaukee offensive output — Stashak, Hansel Robles and Jorge Alcala retired the next 12 batters in order to start the Easter getaway party.
"To be able to come in, lose the first game in a tough manner, and just keep playing, keeping our heads up and doing a good job — that's what you look for," Baldelli said. "That's what good teams do."