Home run surge helps Brewers defeat Twins
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Ryan Braun has watched his childhood buddy Trevor Plouffe climb up the leader board in home runs with a remarkable binge of late that included two long balls in Minnesota’s series opener against Braun’s Milwaukee Brewers on Friday night.
With Plouffe right in Braun’s rearview mirror, the reigning NL MVP put on a show in Plouffe’s spacious backyard on Saturday to let him know where he stands.
Braun hit two home runs and Michael Fiers pitched seven strong innings to lead the Milwaukee Brewers to a 6-2 over the Minnesota Twins.
“I can’t let Trev surpass me in homers or I will never hear the end of it,” Braun said with a smile. “It’s my motivation to not allow Trevor Plouffe to pass me in home runs, which is not easy to do. Luckily we didn’t throw him any strikes today. He only got to swing the bat once.”
Braun added a double and a walk to back Fiers (2-2), the right-hander who gave up one run on four hits with five strikeouts. Aramis Ramirez and Cody Ransom also homered for the Brewers, who have taken the first two games in this interleague series.
Liam Hendriks (0-3) gave up five runs — two earned — on eight hits in five innings in his first start since being recalled from Triple-A Rochester. Plouffe went 0 for 1 with three walks, ending his streak of four straight games with a homer as the Twins lost their fourth straight.
“They weren’t giving me much to hit today,” said Plouffe, who leads the majors with 13 homers since May 16.
Ben Revere had two hits and an RBI for the Twins. Joe Mauer didn’t start because of a sore hamstring, but grounded out in a pinch-hit appearance in the ninth to end the game.
Norichicka Aoki had two hits and two RBIs for the Brewers.
Braun is hitting .322 with 19 homers and 47 RBIs this season, even better numbers than at this point last year when he won the NL MVP award.
In eight interleague games this year, Braun is hitting .515 (17 for 33) with five home runs and 14 RBIs. The numbers are even more impressive considering Braun spent much of the offseason winning an appeal of a 50-game suspension for a positive drug test and he no longer has Prince Fielder hitting behind him for protection.
“I’m like a little kid in the dugout,” Fiers said. “I want to watch every at-bat he has.”
Braun and Plouffe have been friends for the better part of 15 years. Plouffe played baseball with Braun’s younger brother growing up in California and got to know Braun, who is two years older, quite well. They share the same agent and work out together in the offseason.
“He’s a special player,” Plouffe said. “We’ve got to contain him. Can’t let him beat us.”
The Brewers were much more careful with Plouffe, who went deep 10 times in the previous 14 games, on Saturday. Fiers didn’t give him much to hit in the first two at-bats, walking him twice before getting him to fly out to left in the seventh.
The Twins probably should’ve taken a similar approach with Braun.
Braun and Ramirez went back-to-back in the third inning, the second time this season the Brewers have gone deep two hitters in a row. Braun’s solo shot was a rare opposite field homer for a right-handed hitter at Target Field, landing in the flower bed above the scoreboard in right-center.
“He’s just got tremendous power,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “There’s really no ballpark that can hold him in when he’s hitting the ball well. When you see a guy going right-center, a right-hander in this ballpark, it’s struck really well.”
Braun got a little help in the fifth to get a crack at another one. He lifted a fly ball down the first base line and second baseman Jamey Carroll couldn’t hold on to the ball after a very long run, getting charged with a tough error on the play.
Braun hit the next pitch into the bullpen in left-center field, giving the Brewers a 5-1 lead.
“I put too much of it out over the plate and he hit it a ton,” Hendriks said.
NOTES: Ransom’s HR was his first in 19 games with the Brewers since being claimed off waivers from Arizona. … Brewers RHP Marco Estrada (right quad) was scheduled to begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Nashville on Saturday. … Willingham was at DH rather than his usual spot in LF to rest an achy knee. … Twins 1B Justin Morneau returned to the lineup after missing the game Friday night with a sore left forearm. He went 0 for 4, including a rally-killing double play in the eighth inning. … The Twins will send RHP Nick Blackburn (3-4, 7.68) to the mound for the series finale on Sunday against Zack Greinke (7-2, 2.96). Greinke has allowed one run or fewer in six of his last seven starts.