No one would blame Liam Hendriks if he wakes up in the middle of the night because of some horrific dreams involving Ryan Braun. After all, the Brewers outfielder tormented Hendriks throughout the afternoon, going 2-for-2 with a pair of home runs and a walk.
Braun has inspired fear in all of baseball’s pitchers - now amassing 19 home runs thanks to his multi-homer day at Target Field - and Milwaukee’s big right-handed bat showed why he’s such a good hitter, grinding through a nine-pitch match-up in the third inning and finally got Hendriks to throw something that he could handle.
After falling behind 1-2 in the count, Braun made Hendriks labor and fouled off three pitches, working himself into a full count and drove the Hendriks’ fastball into the right field flower bed for an opposite field home runs – a rare feat for a right-handed hitter a Target Field.
“Braun’s a strong guy and knows what he’s looking for,” said manager Ron Gardenhire. “He knows how to come to the plate and knows how to protect. He fights off some pitches and finally gets to a pitch he can do something with.”
Meanwhile, one pitch later, Aramis Ramirez would pull a first-pitch slider over the fence, giving Milwaukee a quick four run lead, ample cushion for Brewers’ starter Michael Fiers who kept the Twins hitters off-balanced with an array of pitches including a very good cutter and slow curve.
Fiers managed to avoid any damage from the league’s hottest hitter, Trevor Plouffe, by bypassing the strike zone altogether, walking him in two of their three match-ups on the afternoon. In all, Plouffe would be walked three times in the game – a career-high for the Twins third baseman. Whether this was a strategy implemented by the Brewers in response to Plouffe’s monumental month is unknown, but Gardenhire gave him plenty of credit for not caving into those pitches out of the zone.
“Trevor didn’t chase, he didn’t give in. Whether they are pitching around him or not, I don’t know but I know he didn’t chase the pitches and force the issue.”
Braun, Plouffe’s off-season workout compatriot, would strike again in the fifth, sending his second home run on the day in the bullpen and equaling Plouffe’s multi-home run game from the night before.
In response to the second shot, Hendriks said it was not his intention of giving Braun something he could handle on that particular pitch.
“I threw a slider which I did not get it off the plate enough – I was trying to get it away off the plate for a ball – and I left it a little bit over and he put a good swing on that one as well”
The three home runs allowed by Hendriks on the day was the sixth time this season one Twins pitcher has allowed a trifecta of home runs in a game.
Despite being hit with the loss, Hendriks’ day was not all bad. In five innings he did strikeout five, walked just one and coaxed seven ground ball outs to just two fly ball outs but, in a rare defensive off-day for Jamey Carroll, the veteran second baseman committed two errors – just the second time he has done so in one game in his career. Had Carroll been able to corral the second inning grounder or held on to the foul pop from Braun in the fifth, Hendriks may have come away from his first start back in Minnesota since the May demotion a little less scathed.
Still Hendriks, who was coming off a 125-pitch start for Rochester seven days ago, did not look crisp as he fell behind hitters early in the game and had required 39 pitches through the first two innings.
Being behind shifted the advantage to the Brewers’ offense, which took control of the game.
“I think you saw Hendriks behind in the count quite a bit,” said Gardenhire. “He left his breaking ball up a couple of times and they made him pay for it, banged it out of the ballpark.”