MILWAUKEE -- Here's something Brewers fans might not have known about the team's new shortstop. It seems Brad Miller takes the team "walk-off" quite literally.
He figures he is responsible for two walk-off RBIs in the entirety of his baseball life -- everything from youth ball in Orlando, to college at Clemson, to the Minors and Majors. Both came via a bases-loaded walk in the big leagues. After he viewed four straight pitches from Twins rookie Zack Littell that were outside the zone, he had delivered a 6-5 Brewers win in 10 innings on Monday at Miller Park. Miller joined Adrian Beltre and Russell Martin as the only active players with a pair of walk-off walks to his credit.
Down on the field after the game, Fox Sports Wisconsin reporter Sophia Minnaert asked Miller the key to pulling it off.
"Don't swing," Miller deadpanned.
Six of the Brewers' 25 wins at Miller Park this season have come in walk-off fashion, including a pair of walks. Travis Shaw took one against the Mets on May 25. The last time the Brewers drew multiple walk-off walks in a season, they were an American League team. John Jaha and Jose Valentin did it in 1997.
"I was in there ready to hit," Miller said. "I'm glad I laid off."
Miller's patience, which came after Shaw dealt Twins closer Fernando Rodney his second straight blown save via a sacrifice fly in the ninth, helped the Brewers avoid falling percentage points behind the Cubs in the National League Central. Instead, Milwaukee remained one game atop the division.
The Brewers won despite becoming the first team in 11 years to serve up a grand slam in three straight games, playing from behind after Twins cleanup man Robbie Grossman ambushed a first-pitch fastball from Brewers starter Brent Suter in the fifth inning for a 5-1 lead.
The game swung back toward the Brewers in the bottom of the same inning, when Manny Pina homered off Twins starter Kyle Gibson to start a three-run rally that included a gift from third baseman Willians Astudillo. He booted Ryan Braun's two-out grounder with the bases loaded for a run-scoring error that made it 5-4, and extended the inning for Nate Orf's near-grand slam in Orf's Major League debut.
"You could feel the offensive pressure getting put right back on them," said Suter.
Four Brewers relievers combined for five innings of scoreless, two-hit relief to keep it a one-run game into the bottom of the ninth. Successive singles by Miller, Eric Thames and Jesus Aguilar off Rodney loaded the bases for Shaw's tying, two-strike sacrifice fly, but Rodney recovered to retire Braun on a broken-bat comebacker to send the game to extra innings.
A clinic on fundamental baseball, the bottom of the 10th inning was not.
Littell, making his second career appearance, put the Brewers in business when he hit Orf with an 0-2 breaking ball. Pina followed and pushed a pair of bunt attempts foul before hitting a single. Keon Broxton was next, and bunted two more pitches foul, before working a walk that loaded the bases with nobody out for Hernan Perez. Perez hit a soft bouncer into a five-man infield. Shortstop Jorge Polanco's throw home was way off line, but catcher Bobby Wilson made a nice play to hold the plate for the out.
Littell then walked Miller on four pitches, and the game was over.
"We didn't get some bunts down, but those guys also battled their butts off with two strikes to have productive at-bats -- better than bunts," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said.
"We're all professionals. We should be able to get the bunts down," said Broxton. "It didn't work out that way, but we got the job done, one way or the other."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
So close: The Miller Park faithful cheered Orf's first Major League at-bat like he was the next coming of Robin Yount, and not an undrafted free agent making his debut after parts of six years in the Minor Leagues. Orf nearly gave them something to cheer about in the fifth, after Astudillo's error gave him a chance to bat with the bases loaded and the Brewers down a run. Orf drove a Gibson pitch to deep center field, but Max Kepler hauled it in on the warning track.
"For the seconds after I hit it, I was like, 'This is it. This is the coolest thing I've ever done,'" said Orf. "Then he caught it and I was like, 'Keep grinding, here we go.' It was so fun. I had so much fun tonight."
Phantom foul: The Twins' first run scored after a dispute between Counsell and home-plate umpire Doug Eddings in the third inning. Twins second baseman James Dozier swung and missed for strike three on a Suter pitch in the dirt and started running to first. Eddings called it a foul tip, to Counsell's dismay, and declined to ask whether any of his fellow umpires had seen it differently. It led to a critical run when Dozier hit a run-scoring groundout for a 1-1 tie.
"What do you want me to do?" Counsell said. "He made a bad call. I don't have any recourse. Sometimes you don't have recourse."
"It changed the game a little bit at that point," said Suter, "But luckily we were able to come back and win it. If we didn't win that one, it would have been a tough one to get over."
For the first time in 50 seasons as a franchise, the Brewers have surrendered a grand slam in three straight games. According to Elias, the last team to meet that dubious distinction was the Royals in April 2007.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Broxton doubled and scored in the fifth, and walked in the 10th, but those were not the only ways he impacted the final score Monday. In the seventh inning, Broxton tracked Joe Mauer's fly ball to the center-field wall and made a leaping catch of what might have been a home run, and at least would have been an extra-base hit.
"I don't know if it was gone," Broxton said. "It probably would have been off the top of the wall, but when I caught it, my body kind of carried over the fence. … Our guys just scratched and clawed for whatever we could. I think everyone said in their heads, 'We're winning this game.' It was nice that we went out and did it."
Junior Guerra will be on the mound Tuesday afternoon for the Brewers opposite former Milwaukee prospect Jake Odorizzi in a rematch of their May 20 meeting at Target Field, where Odorizzi struck out 10 in 5 2/3 innings of a Twins win. They'll go head-to-head again in a game that will be televised exclusively on Facebook Live beginning at 3:10 p.m. CT.