Twins fall despite three-run first inning
Baker allows five runs; Young, Morneau both drive in two
MILWAUKEE -- For six batters on Tuesday night, it seemed that nothing could go wrong for the Twins.
The Twins appeared to have Brewers starter Chris Narveson on the ropes after each of the first six Minnesota batters reached base. It included leadoff batter Denard Span getting hit by a pitch and the next two batters drawing walks to load the bases. After three consecutive singles by Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer and Delmon Young, the Twins had a three-run lead and the Brewers had left-hander Chris Capuano warming up in the bullpen.
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But just as soon as it seemed that Minnesota was on its way to knocking Milwaukee's starter out of the contest, rookie third baseman Danny Valencia swung at the first pitch from Narveson and popped out.
Just like that, momentum swung.
Narveson rebounded from the rough start, allowing only two of the next 16 batters he faced to reach base, and he even delivered his club's go-ahead run in the fourth inning, as the Twins lost, 7-5, in the series opener at Miller Park.
"We had a lead the first inning, and I think we had a pretty good opportunity to put up a big number," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We didn't get it done."
Following their early scoring drive, the Twins watched as Narveson settled into his outing. He retired a stretch of 10 batters in a row after Young's single with no outs in the first that reloaded the bases for Minnesota. Narveson's string included striking out Nick Punto looking and forcing Scott Baker to ground out back to the mound, which gave him the final two outs of the first.
Milwaukee took advantage of its starter getting back on track, and it was able to get some offense going against Baker in the fourth.
Things quickly went downhill for Baker in the inning when he gave up hits to each of the first four batters he faced, including a game-tying, three-run homer to right-center field by Casey McGehee.
The inning started with Prince Fielder's hustle-induced double on a blooper to left field, and Ryan Braun followed with a single. That's when McGehee stepped up to the plate and dug out a 91-mph fastball that was down in the zone.
Initially, Cuddyer broke in when the ball was hit. But what first appeared like a fly ball to most of the Twins soon turned into a deflating home run.
"I took a step or two in and was like, 'Uh oh this is going to beat me,'" Cuddyer said. "Then, all of a sudden, it went out of the park."
Baker acknowledged that it wasn't a bad pitch to McGehee, but the problem was that the entire inning was filled with too many fastballs to the Brewers' hitters because the right-hander couldn't get a feel for his breaking pitch.
"At that point in the game, I wasn't really throwing my breaking balls over for strikes, so they basically eliminated that pitch," Baker said. "Even though you're not throwing breaking balls for strikes, you still need to keep it in there and keep them guessing."
The damage continued in the fourth after McGehee's homer, when Jim Edmonds followed with a double. Two outs later, Narveson provided the big hit for Milwaukee, lofting a ball off the end of his bat along the line in shallow left field for an RBI single to put the Brewers up, 4-3.
For Narveson, it was the capper on a night when he was able to turn things around and pitch five innings while giving up three runs on five hits. It was a solid start, considering how close the Twins were to knocking him out in that first inning.
"He did a good job hanging in there because we could have put him away in the first inning," Gardenhire said.
"It's a mentality a lot of times," Narveson said. "It was kind of one of those things where you said, 'Hey, you've got to step up and pitch the way you can. You've got a good game plan, you know how to attack these hitters, go out and execute it and go from there.'"
The Brewers tacked on one more run against Baker in the starter's final inning, thanks to Alcides Escobar's bloop RBI single. Baker allowed five runs on nine hits over six innings while striking out seven.
Milwaukee then added two more runs off right-hander Alex Burnett in the seventh, which would end up being critical because the Twins made a late-inning comeback.
The Twins proved on Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia that they could overcome a significant late-inning deficit on the road. But on Tuesday night, their late rally wasn't enough to overcome the hole against the Brewers.
With the Twins trailing by four runs in the eighth, Young delivered a two-run double to center field, scoring Morneau and Cuddyer with no outs. After a one-out walk by Nick Punto brought the go-ahead run to the plate, Jason Kubel ended the threat by lining out back to reliever John Axford, who doubled off Young at second base.
"We're definitely resilient, and I think we've shown our resiliency over the last few years that we're not going to give up," Cuddyer said. "Today, we fell a little short, but we still made it interesting."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.