MILWAUKEE – The Twins keep trying different relievers Tuesday, hoping to avoid another meltdown. Another occurred, but Marwin Gonzalez made it survivable.
Gonzalez blasted a three-run homer in the eighth inning off Milwaukee closer Josh Hader, catapulting the Twins over the Brewers 7-5 at Miller Park. The homer erased the damage done a half-inning before, when the Brewers' Yasmani Grandal crunched a three-run shot of his own off Twins reliever Ryne Harper to turn a 4-2 Twins lead into a 5-4 edge for the Brewers.
It was Harper's first homer surrendered since July 5. But after Gonzalez's redeeming blow, Sam Dyson -- just activated off the injured list -- pitched a scoreless eighth inning before Sergio Romo came in to pitch the ninth and earn his 19th save this season, his second for the Twins since being acquired from the Marlins at the end of July.
The Twins, who had lost five of their past six games to drop to second place in the AL Central, crept back into the top spot with the victory and Cleveland's 7-6, 10-inning loss to Boston. They built an early 4-1 lead on the Brewers behind the power of Mitch Garver's 22nd home run, and watched, on the left-field scoreboard, the first-place Indians fall behind the Red Sox in Cleveland.
But in the space of about five minutes, Cleveland rallied to send its game to extra innings, and Harper gave up the lead. In doing so, he followed similar recent costly outings by Taylor Rogers, Dyson and Trevor May.
Keston Hiura led off the seventh inning with a sharp single to left on a 2-2 curveball from Harper. Then the rookie righthander fell behind reigning NL MVP Christian Yelich 2-0, and was forced to throw a fastball that Yelich pounced upon. It reached the warning track in left-center, a double that scored Hiura.
Ryan Braun followed with a dribbler that appeared to be an easy out, but home plate umpire Rob Drake ruled that Braun's bat had touched Garver's glove, and Braun was awarded first base on catcher's interference. That set up Harper's final, and costliest, pitch: A first-pitch curveball that Grandal was waiting on. He pounded it into the Twins' bullpen, a three-run home run that quieted the many Twins fans among the announced crowd of 44,331, and delighted the rest.
The same old story for the Twins? For the first time in several starts, Martin Perez had delivered. Sort of.
Like Jake Odorizzi three nights before him, Perez gave the Brewers chance after chance to rough him up and extend the Twins' slump. And like Odorizzi, he toughened up when he had to.
Perez allowed Brewers to reach base in each of his six innings, but in five of them, he stranded a runner in scoring position, blanking Milwaukee (0-for-10) in those situations.
The veteran lefthander, winless since July 5, had been ineffective in his two previous August starts, allowing 11 earned runs in 11 innings and endangering his spot in the Twins' starting rotation. And it's difficult to say he was much sharper on Tuesday.
But for a night, baserunners didn't matter. Perez allowed six hits over six innings, and walked four more Brewers. But only in the fourth inning, when Jorge Polanco allowed a force-out throw from Perez to glance off his glove, did Milwaukee score a run off the Twins' embattled starter.
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