Brewers 5, Twins 3

The Milwaukee Brewers needed a game like this after three

straight one-run losses.

None more than John Axford.

Martin Maldonado’s two-run, tiebreaking home run in the ninth

inning off Matt Capps pushed the Brewers past the Minnesota Twins

5-3 on Friday night, and Axford bounced back from consecutive blown

saves to preserve the lead.

”I want to be there as many times as possible,” Axford said,

smiling, ”because then we’re always winning, right?

Corey Hart doubled to start the ninth against Capps (1-4). Then

with two outs and two strikes, Maldonado drove a fastball into the

bullpen.

”I’ve got to get the heater down,” Capps said. ”I get it

down, it’s a groundball to short.”

Axford promptly pitched a 1-2-3 inning for his 11th save, and

those excruciating defeats in Kansas City were quickly

forgotten.

”It can hurt the team, and it can hurt the guy that’s out there

closing. So all that was very important to me,” manager Ron

Roenicke said.

Ryan Braun ended Francisco Liriano’s no-hit bid with a one-out,

three-run homer in the sixth inning on the left-hander’s 97th pitch

after a pair of walks. Trevor Plouffe tied the game at 3 off Yovani

Gallardo in the bottom of the frame with his second home run of the

night, his seventh in seven games and 14th of the season. But Manny

Parra, Kameron Loe (3-2) and Axford allowed the Twins only two

singles over the final three innings.

Braun said he never ”ever” expects Axford to blow a save.

”I still feel 100 percent with him out there closing the game.

You saw he proved it tonight,” Gallardo said. ”The past few days

things haven’t gone his way, but you couldn’t notice it out there

on the mound.”

Liriano struck out six in six innings, walking four, hitting one

batter and allowing just the one hit. He was sharp from the start,

striking out the side in the second and recording six groundball

outs over the first five innings.

The Twins had a prime opportunity to further pad their lead by

following Plouffe’s home run, on his 26th birthday, with three

straight singles, the last by Casilla that made the score 2-0.

`

But Denard Span gave Gallardo his first out with a sacrifice

bunt. That put both runners in scoring position, but Ben Revere

bounced out and after an intentional walk to Mauer, Josh

Willingham’s fly ball to center field didn’t quite reach the

warning track.

After taking all that time to only produce two runs, with

Liriano sitting in the dugout and losing his rhythm, the Twins lost

some of their edge. Liriano walked ninth hitter Edwin Maysonet and

then Carlos Gomez – he of the .303 on-base percentage entering the

game – for a second time with one out.

Pitching coach Rick Anderson visited Liriano on the mound, Brian

Duensing began warming up in the bullpen and … Liriano hung an

0-2 slider that Braun hit over the center-field wall.

”Honestly? Just hoping not to strike out. His stuff was so good

tonight,” Braun said.

Gallardo needed 109 pitches to finish six innings, but after

allowing a pair of infield singles following Plouffe’s second homer

he struck out Span to end that threat. Gallardo struck out seven

and walked two while giving up eight hits.

”That’s as good as he’s thrown this year,” Roenicke said.

This is the Liriano the Twins have had to settle for, six years

after his sensational rookie debut and subsequent elbow injury. In

four starts since returning to the rotation last month, Liriano has

a 3.04 with 29 strikeouts and just 12 hits allowed in 23 2-3

innings. But he’s still struggling to bear down and get that

critical out when he and the Twins need it.

”When you walk the leadoff guy, you end up getting yourself in

a little bit of a jam,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

NOTES: RH Mike Fiers (1-2, 4.50 ERA) pitches for the Brewers in

Saturday’s matinee against fellow rookie RH Liam Hendriks (0-2,

9.00) of the Twins. Fiers will make his fourth start for the

Brewers. Hendriks will be recalled from Triple-A Rochester to

rejoin the rotation after four starts at the beginning of the

season for the Twins. … Braun has at least one hit in his last 20

interleague games, batting .408 in that stretch. … Plouffe is

hitting .396 with four doubles, nine homers and 16 RBIs in 12 games

this month.