Matt Garza was in a charitable mood on Tuesday night at Target Field. His team staked him to a 1-0 lead, and he gave it back twofold. His team turned around a half-inning later by doubling the original lead to 4-2, and he again paid it back doubly by again putting his team behind the 8-ball with an 8-4 deficit.
The final damage for the right-hander was 3.1 innings, eight earned runs, four home runs allowed and an early shower as the Twins pummeled their old friend 11-4 in front of 34,186 fans. It marked the second game in a row the Twins had drawn 30,000-plus fans, as they pushed to within a game of .500 and a game-and-a-half of the second Wild Card spot, which is co-owned by the Seattle Mariners, Kansas City Royals and Tampa Bay Rays at the close of business Tuesday night.
The win was the Twins’ third in a row — all in come-from-behind fashion — as the team wrapped a six-game homestand with a 4-2 record despite giving up the first run of the game in each one.
The weapon of choice for the Twins on Tuesday night was the long ball, as they scored their first nine runs all on home runs. There were repeat offenders as well, as Max Kepler poked a pair of home runs in the third and fourth innings — both off Garza — while Eddie Rosario victimized Garza on the way out and then Brewers reliever Jeremy Jeffress in the fifth inning.
But the big blow, which preceded the second Kepler homer but more or less put a bow on the win was an opposite-field grand slam off the bat of Brian Dozier. The slam was not only the first of Dozier’s career, but the team’s first all season long. Now just the Boston Red Sox remain as the only team without a proverbial four-run homer.
Adalberto Mejia wasn’t long for the game, and part of it was his usual routine and the other part was that he had to leave the game with an injury after three-plus innings. Mejia was reaching back for 95 and 96 mph with relative ease in the first couple innings, but when those readings petered out to 90-91 mph in the third inning, trainers and manager Paul Molitor immediately took notice. Mejia was lifted from the game with left upper lateral arm pain, and will have an MRI on Wednesday.
He was placed on the disabled list following the game, and the team will make a corresponding roster move before Wednesday’s game in Milwaukee.
“I felt something bothersome in my arm,” Mejia said after the game. “I couldn’t help my team anymore.” Mejia said that he first felt it in the second inning, but tried to pitch through it until it just became too much to bear. Mejia said the issue is in the area between the bicep and the tricep, but that he’s not sure the extent of the damage yet.
It’s possible the corresponding move will be for a position player, especially since a three-man bench may be difficult to navigate in National League parks — though not having the designated hitter is a wrinkle that adds another bench body — but also because Alan Busenitz and Tyler Duffey have barely worked of late.
Busenitz hasn’t worked since Aug. 1, and Duffey entered the game after Mejia departed for his first appearance since July 30. Molitor said after the game that he was trying to refresh Duffey a bit, but circumstances made the sabbatical a bit longer than he’d originally intended.
Duffey entered with a 2-1 count to Brewers center fielder Keon Broxton, and proceeded to fan him on three pitches before a Jonathan Villar comebacker plated a run to tie the game at two runs apiece. Domingo Santana followed with a first-pitch, booming double to right-center to score Orlando Arcia, and Ryan Braun reached on an infield hit when Jorge Polanco’s throw to first bounced and got past Joe Mauer.
That gave the Brewers a 4-2 lead, but capped the scoring for the Crew for the day.
The Twins wasted little time burying Garza, who came into the start with a 3.68 ERA and left with it at 4.34. After a Robbie Grossman fly to center, Rosario pounded the second pitch he saw off the batter’s eye in center. Byron Buxton followed with a single, then Jason Castro and Polanco walked to fill the bases.
That’s where Dozier stepped in, and ambushed a first-pitch fastball the other way into the right field seats to give the Twins a 7-4 lead they only padded the rest of the way. With Garza stewing on the mound, Kepler followed with his second homer in as many innings on a 2-1 pitch, and that signaled the end of the day for the righty.
“I’m just trying to get that runner in,” Dozier said of his mindset when he stepped to the plate. “(Garza) left a pitch a little too far up in the zone.”
Dozier said it was probably the most excited his been when rounding third, largely due to the environment but also a number of other factors, such as facing a good team, taking the lead and other things. “It’s kind of that time of year,” Dozier said. “I was excited.”
Duffey bounced back for a 1-2-3 fifth inning, then handed the ball off to Dillon Gee, who polished off the Brew Crew with four scoreless innings — and a save — as he scattered four hits with five strikeouts. Gee threw 55 pitches, including 41 strikes in another strong effort out of the bullpen.
Rosario homered again in the fifth to push the lead to 9-4, with Dozier singling home Castro later in the inning. Polanco capped the scoring with a smash into the right-center gap that he legged out for a triple to plate Rosario, giving the Twins an 11-4 advantage.
The save was the first of Gee’s MLB career. Molitor said after the game that the team will discuss all options about who’d take Mejia’s rotation spot, but that Gee was certainly in the mix. Gee has thrown seven scoreless innings with nine strikeouts and just six hits allowed with the Twins this season.
“He’s had a couple really nice outings,” Molitor said. “It was nice to see him come in and be able to clean that game up the way he did with four clean innings. He’s definitely an option.”
- According to the game notes, the Twins are 11-7 over their last 18 games at Target Field.
- Dozier’s grand slam was the first for a Twins player since Byron Buxton on Sept. 4, 2016 against the White Sox.
- This marked Kepler’s third career multi-homer game and Rosario’s second.
- Buxton has hit safely in 12 of his last 14 games.
- Polanco extended his hitting streak to seven games, and had a stretch of seven straight plate appearances snapped in his second at-bat Tuesday night on a deep fly out to center.
- Mauer’s single in the first inning was the 2,811th time he’s reached base — passing Kirby Puckett for second on the Twins all-time list and sixth in Twins/Washington Senators history. He also passed Tony Oliva with 1,918 hits for third on the team’s all-time list.