Marwin's huge HR off Hader puts Twins in 1st

August 14th, 2019

MILWAUKEE -- After a roller coaster of a series opener at Miller Park, the Twins found themselves back atop the American League Central.

Minnesota's 7-5 win over the Brewers on Tuesday night had the feel of a postseason atmosphere, with both clubs in the middle of tight races. It had all the makings of an October evening and was decided by 's three-run home run in the eighth inning off Milwaukee's All-Star closer, Josh Hader.

The victory, combined with the Indians' extra-inning loss to the Red Sox, gave the Twins a half-game lead in the AL Central.

“It was a big game,” Twins’ manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We've been playing a lot of games that have this kind of feel. They're challenging. They're emotional. They definitely drain you, but our guys don't quit and our guys continue to have good at-bats and put some runs on the board.”

Gonzalez, who has extensive postseason experience having won the World Series with the Astros in 2017, isn’t a bad option to have come up in a big spot.

“I think he's fully prepared in those moments to slow things down,” Baldelli said. “Whatever it is that he's doing, he's fully prepared to do it. Nothing is going to speed up on him. He's got a tremendous demeanor for a baseball player and he's always ready.”

Eddie Rosario and Miguel Sano reached base to start the eighth inning, but Luis Arraez and C.J. Cron were retired to bring up Gonzalez, which saw Hader brought in. Gonzalez hit Hader's first pitch, a 96-mph fastball over the heart of the plate, over the left-center-field wall to give Minnesota the two-run lead that it maintained to the finish.

Hader has allowed a home run in three of his last four appearances, and Gonzalez was looking to pounce.

"I was ready to swing at the first pitch,” Gonzalez said.

“He’s one of the best in the game, and you cannot give him an easy strike,” he added. “It was great to swing at the first pitch, and luckily, it was where I wanted it.

“Doesn’t matter how he’s been doing lately, he’s still tough and it’s no fun to face him. It’s not a fun at-bat. No matter how many hits he’s given up when you see him, that’s one of the guys that you don’t want to face.”

Left-hander Martin Perez delivered a start the Twins needed, having lost five of their last six games coming into Tuesday’s game. In those six games, Minnesota's starting pitchers registered an 8.16 ERA.

Perez allowed one unearned run over six innings, but he had to work through trouble early and often, scattering six hits and four walks while striking out three. Perez stranded runners at first and second base in each of his first four innings and avoided trouble in the sixth after allowing a leadoff double. The Brewers finished the game 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position.

That one hit was a three-run home run in the seventh inning from Yasmani Grandal. Ryne Harper relieved Perez to start the inning and had a 4-1 lead, but all four Brewers he faced reached base, the last of whom was Grandal, who gave Milwaukee a one-run lead that was short-lived thanks to Gonzalez.

“The key is how tough we fight,” Gonzalez said. “It hasn’t been easy, the last couple of weeks, but we’re still playing hard and trying to score as many runs as we possibly can.”

Last weekend, Minnesota dropped three out of four games to the Indians, which caused a tie atop the AL Central. Cleveland’s win on Monday night over Boston gave the Tribe a half-game lead.

Missing an opportunity like Tuesday night presented them would’ve been a difficult blow for the Twins, but instead, it could be a galvanizing moment as they enter the season’s final stretch.

“I think, for one, it's just focusing on ourselves and focusing on going out there and playing well,” Baldelli said. “We've always preached having fun, we've always preached enjoying ourselves and playing loose and showing up to the field relaxed and having a good environment for everyone to be around in this clubhouse. I think we've done that from the from the beginning until now. And I don't think that's going to change at any point.

“When you focus on what other people are doing, then you have a lot of different thoughts running through your mind. But when you're focusing on what you're doing, you're able to go out there and execute, play well and win games.”