MINNEAPOLIS — With his move to Minnesota, Kenta Maeda welcomed the opportunity to be a full-time starter and finally be done dabbling in the bullpen.
His capability and durability was on full display Tuesday night.
Maeda lost a no-hitter in the ninth inning for the Twins, who blew a three-run lead but came back to beat the Milwaukee Brewers 4-3 in 12 innings.
“He was in total control. He’s showing us all of the different dimensions to what he can do out on the mound,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Even for people who are in baseball, to watch a performance like that does put you a little bit in awe.”
Maeda’s no-hit bid ended on Eric Sogard‘s soft single that soared just over the glove of leaping shortstop Jorge Polanco. Maeda set a club record with eight consecutive strikeouts and finished the game with 12 punchouts on 115 pitches – the most thrown by any pitcher in baseball this season and the most in Maeda’s five-year major league career since arriving from Japan.
“In my days back in Japan, it’s normal for me to throw this many pitches per outing. But then again, it’s been awhile since the last time I pitched in Japan, so I’m kind of tired today,” Maeda said through his interpreter.
Byron Buxton helped salvage his gem. Buxton slid headfirst into home on a slow roller against a five-man infield in the 12th for the winning run. Jorge Polanco poked the grounder past David Phelps (2-2), and second baseman Luis Urias fielded the ball cleanly but couldn’t send it home in time to beat Buxton, who was charging from third after opening the inning as Minnesota’s automatic runner at second.
“I still think on a regular ground ball we have a chance to throw him out,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said.
Sogard’s hit gave them a chance.
“We knew we were still in the game. We needed baserunners,” Sogard said. “He was throwing the ball great.”
Said Twins catcher Alex Avila: “I’ve seen a lot of no-hitters broken up that way with broken-bat hits and stuff like that. It’s heartbreaking at times, but he was incredible today.”
The Twins immediately summoned closer Taylor Rogers, who gave up a double, a walk and an RBI single by Keston Hiura. With the bases loaded, Rogers got a ground ball for one out as a second run scored. The relay throw by second baseman Ildemaro Vargas clipped Marwin Gonzalez‘s glove at first for an error – just the third by the Twins in 24 games this year – and allowed Christian Yelich to score the tying run as the visiting dugout roared in celebration.
Maeda is in his first season with the Twins, who acquired him this winter from the Los Angeles Dodgers for pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol.
Maeda retired 21 straight batters in a stretch from the first to the eighth innings and finished with 12 strikeouts. He walked two. The most recent of five Twins no-hitters was thrown by Francisco Liriano, in Chicago against the White Sox in 2011.
Maeda fanned Ben Gamel to finish the fifth for his eighth straight punchout, passing Jim Merritt (1966) and Liriano (2010), who both fanned seven batters in a row for the Twins. The major league record is 10 consecutive strikeouts, set by Tom Seaver for the New York Mets in 1970.
“I wasn’t aware of eight. Had I known I would’ve gone for the ninth,” Maeda said.
Brewers closer Josh Hader struck out two batters in the 10th, including Gonzalez on a pitch he felt was high. Home plate umpire Jeremie Rehak quickly ejected him for arguing. Opponents are 0 for 22 against Hader this season, with four walks and one hit by pitch 12 strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings.
Twins right fielder Max Kepler made a diving catch in right field on Orlando Arcia‘s sinking line drive for the second out of the 12th with runners at second and third, and Jorge Alcala (1-0) struck out Urias to end it.
Brewers starter Corbin Burnes held the Twins hitless through four innings, until Luis Arraez led off the fifth with a double and scored on a double by Miguel Sano. Burnes struck out American League RBI leader Nelson Cruz with the bases loaded to end that inning.
Polanco tacked on a two-out RBI single in the seventh, and Ehire Adrianza added a bunt single that plated in a run in the eighth.
Brewers: Counsell dismissed a potential connection between Yelich’s recovery from a broken kneecap last year and his struggles at the plate this summer. “You can speculate, I guess, with a million different things on this, but I would say I think he’s fine,” Counsell said.
Twins: Arraez was replaced by Vargas in the ninth, due to soreness in one of his legs, Baldelli said.
Brewers: LHP Brett Anderson (0-2, 4.91 ERA) will make his fourth start of the season on Wednesday night. He allowed five hits, two runs, two walks and one hit batter in 4 1/3 innings with five strikeouts in his last turn, a loss to the Cubs.
Twins: RHP Rich Hill (1-0, 0.00 ERA) will come off the injured list and take the mound for the middle game of the series. He has made only one start because of mild shoulder trouble.