Brewers pick up Thornburg after rare hiccup

April 19th, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS -- Tyler Thornburg's teammates made sure he didn't have to stew over his first poor outing of the season.

After Thornburg surrendered his first runs -- and the Brewers' lead -- on a pair of eighth-inning home runs on Tuesday, Milwaukee reclaimed the advantage three batters into the ninth on Scooter Gennett's run-scoring single. It helped send the Brewers to a 6-5 win over the Twins at Target Field.

"It makes it a lot easier to deal with," Thornburg said. "A lot, a lot easier."

Thornburg was due a pick-me-up. Not only had the right-hander worked five scoreless appearances to start the season, the inherited runners he stranded for Michael Blazek in the seventh inning on Tuesday were Thornburg's second and third of the year, keeping his record in that category clean. Entering the outing, Thornburg had surrendered two hits this season, both singles.

Thornburg has become a critical late-inning option for manager Craig Counsell since left-hander Will Smith tore a ligament in his right knee and right-hander Corey Knebel strained his left oblique at the end of Spring Training. Thornburg and Blazek have handled setup duties in front of closer Jeremy Jeffress.

Even before those injuries, Counsell preached a "no roles" mentality for his relievers, and that was put into practice on Tuesday. In the sixth, Counsell turned to Blazek with two runners aboard, no outs and the Brewers holding a 5-2 lead. Blazek escaped that jam but created one in the seventh inning with a pair of walks. Thornburg entered with two outs and struck out dangerous Twins right fielder Miguel Sano to end the inning.

The eighth did not go as smoothly. Byung Ho Park hit a first-pitch curveball for a one-out, solo home run. Eduardo Escobar followed with a single before pinch-hitter Eddie Rosario connected with a changeup for a tying two-run home run to straightaway center field.


Thornburg escaped further damage by inducing a pair of flyouts and finished his 1 1/3-inning outing having thrown a season-high 30 pitches.

"Maybe the first outing of Spring Training was the only time I had an 'up and down,' I believe," said Thornburg, using pitchers' parlance for appearing in more than one inning. "My arm felt fine -- everything felt fine -- but I was a little bit out of sync coming back [for the eighth inning] for whatever reason. I think I'll be better prepared when it comes to next time."

Said Gennett: "That's what you want to do as a team, pick each other up. That's what we did today. Obviously, it's a rarity for [Thornburg] to have an outing like that."

The Brewers went 3-5 on their three-city road trip, including a pair of wins like Tuesday's. On the first day of the trip, in St. Louis, Blazek surrendered a run in the eighth inning before Domingo Santana hit a go-ahead home run off Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal in the ninth to set up a 6-4 win.

"Especially early, it takes so much pressure off everyone," Thornburg said. "It's really nice, being that guy who gave up those runs when it should have been a lockdown inning."