MILWAUKEE — All the pageantry of Opening Day had been made sweeter with the sounds of fans back in the stands. After a slow spring, regular-season Max Kepler showed up and fell a home run short of the cycle. Byron Buxton hit a tape-measure two-run blast, the longest home run of his career. The Twins’ bullpen had been nearly unhittable, and inside a stadium with its retractable roof closed, there were no weather issues to speak of.
There were concerns, of course, after seeing third baseman Josh Donaldson depart the game in the first inning after hitting a double. But Donaldson aside — the Twins say he has right hamstring tightness and will be re-evaluated Friday — things had been going, for the most part, the Twins’ way.
And then it all unraveled. After a slow beginning to the game — it lasted 4 hours, 14 minutes in total — the painful part went quickly, and the Twins wound up falling 6-5 to the Milwaukee Brewers in 10 innings Thursday at American Family Field when an Orlando Arcia chopper brought home Lorenzo Cain to complete their comeback victory.
Alex Colome, whom the Twins signed in early February to strengthen the back of their bullpen, was summoned to protect a three-run lead. He couldn’t, allowing three unearned runs to score.
With one out in the ninth, Colome hit Kolten Wong on the hand. The Twins challenged, but the call was upheld. On the next play, Colome fielded a grounder but threw high to second, and both runners were safe. Kepler couldn’t glove Christian Yelich’s liner to right, which brought home the first run of the inning, and a Travis Shaw double off Colome tied the game.
“It was kind of a combination of things that happened that obviously didn’t go our way, and we didn’t make the plays that we needed to,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I’m not saying they were all very straightforward plays, but we had a pretty good opportunity to win the game, and obviously that sequence did not go our way and we can make those plays.”
It took just 11 pitches for Brewers all-star Josh Hader to retire the Twins in order in the 10th. Hader struck all three men he faced, prompting Baldelli to call him “as good as it gets.” It took just three Randy Dobnak pitches for the Brewers to steal the comeback victory.
Prior to that, it had been a relatively good day for the Twins, though they did strike out 17 times. Starter Kenta Maeda struggled at times with his control but wound up giving up two runs — just one earned — in a 4 1/3-inning performance. That unearned run came after a rare error from shortstop Andrelton Simmons, one of the best defensive players in the game.
Maeda said at one point he was opening up a little too early, causing him to misfire. While he said “the results weren’t there,” he certainly pitched well enough to keep his team in the game. Starting in the sixth inning, the Twins bullpen had locked things down, too, with scoreless outings from Cody Stashak, Taylor Rogers and Hansel Robles.
Some of those performances, impressive as they were, will be forgotten in the end, washed out as the Twins began their season on a disappointing note. Their manager, though, struck an optimistic tone after the game, liking much of what he saw in innings one through eight.
“It was a good-looking game for the vast majority of the game, and we were really happy with where we were sitting going out there facing a good team, facing a good starting pitcher and a good bullpen over there,” Baldelli said. “If we’re sitting in that spot all year long, we’ve done something right.”