Brewers finally find power at Miller Park
Team had been out-homered 68-40 at home entering Sunday
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers turned back the clock to 2011 on Sunday, when the starting pitcher worked seven quality innings, a reliever preserved a tie and someone popped a go-ahead home run.
That was the formula for a 5-3 win over the Twins, with Mike Fiers turning in the quality start, Will Smith earning the win in relief and Ryan Braun and Adam Lind providing the power with a pair of two-run home runs. When Francisco Rodriguez stranded the tying runner on base in a harrowing ninth inning, the Brewers had won back-to-back series at Miller Park for the first time this season -- another trait of the 2011 National League Championship Series club which has eluded the 2015 edition.
"There's still three months of baseball left," said Braun, "and I think we've gotten to a point where we need to get back to wanting to win, to feeling like we're going to win, to showing up and feeling like we have a legitimate chance to win."
Braun's eighth-inning home run off Twins reliever Casey Fien gave the Brewers a 3-1 lead and preceded Lind's critical insurance shot by two batters. It was Braun's third home run this month after getting a second cryotherapy injection in his right thumb, and his team-best 15th homer this season. Lind's homer was his 11th, and loomed large when Torii Hunter hit a two-run homer in the ninth inning off Rodriguez.
Those home runs have come with far-less frequency than Brewers teams of the past. They entered Sunday ranked 15th of 30 Major League teams with 66 home runs, and have been out-homered at Miller Park this season by a 68-40 margin.
That discrepancy has contributed to the Brewers' 15-26 record in home games with more than half of the Miller Park slate now in the books.
"As an offensive unit, are we homering less as a unit? Yes, and that plays a part in the gap," manager Craig Counsell said. "We've had success with power hitters here. Doug [Melvin, Milwaukee's longtime general manager], that's always been kind of his staple. Power works in this ballpark. That's very true. We're not playing in Petco Park or a big park in Seattle or something like that.
"We're not hitting as many home runs this year. But power is not always the easiest thing [to acquire]. It's not cheap, it's not easy. … But I understand that the discrepancy is huge this year, and you're not going to win like that."
Braun credited the opposing pitchers.
"Pitching is significantly better than it's ever been. I think that's well-documented," he said. "The strike zone is significantly larger than it was five years ago. You combine some of those factors and it's going to be a lot harder to hit homers as a team."