MINNEAPOLIS — Trevor Plouffe is still getting used to the increased media attention that is coming as the result of an impressive homer binge. The only ones at Target Field on Saturday, June 16th who didn’t seem to want a piece of him were the guys on Milwaukee’s pitching staff.
Plouffe went 0 for 1 with three walks to snap a string of four consecutive games with a home run in Minnesota’s 6-2 loss to the Brewers.
“They weren’t giving me much to hit today,” said Plouffe, who went deep twice in the series opener and led the majors with 13 homers since May 16.
Plouffe’s childhood friend Ryan Braun did all the damage in the second game, hitting two solo homers off of Liam Hendriks (0-3) to get the Brewers rolling. Braun added a double and a walk and Aramis Ramirez and Cody Ransom also went deep for Milwaukee.
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.
“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.”
Hendriks gave up five runs — two earned — on eight hits in five innings in his first start since being recalled from Triple-A Rochester, and the Twins were befuddled by right-hander Michael Fiers (2-2).
Fiers gave up one run on four hits with five strikeouts in seven innings, pitched around the surging Plouffe twice and dared the rest of the Twins’ hitters to beat him. With catcher Joe Mauer not starting because of a sore hamstring, the rest of the Twins had a hard time figuring Fiers out.
Ben Revere had two hits and an RBI and Josh Willingham added an RBI single off reliever Manny Parra in the eighth inning for the Twins, who have lost four straight.
“He had a pretty funky delivery, pretty deceptive,” Plouffe said Fiers. “He was keeping us off balance and he was working away and coming in. He was doing it all.”
Joe Mauer didn’t start for the Twins because of a sore hamstring, but grounded out in a pinch-hit appearance in the ninth to end the game.
The Twins probably should have been as careful with Braun as the Brewers were with Plouffe.
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.
“He’s a strong guy and he knows what he’s looking for, he knows how to cover the plate and he knows how to protect,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He fights off some pitches and finally gets to a pitch that he can do something with. He’s a really smart hitter.”
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, and 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.
The normally reliable Carroll, who entered the game with three errors all season, had a difficult day. He couldn’t handle a hard-hit grounder to his left in the second inning that squirted through his glove, an error that led to two unearned runs on a single by Norichika Aoki to open the scoring.
“We missed a play a couple times, but the pitcher needs to pitch around those things, too,” Gardenhire said.