June 17, 2007: Prince Fielder’s Inside The Park Home Run
The Metrodome was teeming with 30,000 fans on a Sunday afternoon and the Brewers were well represented. Milwaukee, at 38-30, had the National League Central’s only record above .500 in mid-June. The Twins, on the other hand, were in the middle of the AL Central, barely keeping their heads above .500.
After dropping the first two games, the Twins’ offense surged out on top of Brewers’ Jeff Suppan. Led by Justin Morneau (3 RBI) and Lew Ford (4 RBI) -- who was an early substitute after Torii Hunter was struck by a Suppan pitch in his first at-bat -- the Twins took a 9-4 lead into the top of the eighth. Reliever Juan Rincon allowed an RBI single to current Brewers manager Craig Counsell, followed by a home run to Corey Hart.
Clinging to a 9-7 led, Ron Gardenhire turned to closer Joe Nathan for the final three outs. Brewers’ designated hitter Prince Fielder led off the inning by lofting what should have been a sure out to Ford in center field. The result was this:
One of Fielder’s NL-best 50 home runs in 2007, his inside-the-park home run would be followed by three straight singles, a strikeout and then a sacrifice fly by Counsell to tie the game. Fortunately for Twins fans, Morneau led off the bottom of the ninth with a solo home run to send everyone home happy.
This game had it all -- the Metrodome’s quirkiness front-and-center, Lew Ford acting a fool, and Prince Fielder chugging all the way around the bases. Morneau’s walk-off home run was just icing on the cake.
April 14, 1992: Paul Molitor Steals Home
For the defending World Series champions, the 1992 season started off slow.
Prior to the season, the Twins had traded a highly thought of pitching prospect (Denny Neagle) for the 27-year-old John Smiley who had won 20 games the previous season with the Pirates in an effort to replace Jack Morris, who had departed to Toronto. High hopes were placed on the arm that finished third in the NL Cy Young voting. However, the year opened with a three-game series in Milwaukee and the Twins’ key offseason acquisition lasted just five innings in a 9-5 loss at County Stadium. His second start on April 14 against the Brewers at the Metrodome would be substantially worse.
In the third inning of the Tuesday night game, the Brewers started with a pair of singles followed by two walks -- the latter of which was a bases-loaded version to none other than Paul Molitor. After a single and sacrifice fly, Molitor found himself on second but wanted to go another ninety feet. With Greg Vaughn batting, Molitor swiped third on Smiley and catcher Brian Harper. Vaughn popped out, leaving Molitor on third with two outs.
With two down and Robin Yount -- a future Hall of Famer himself -- at the plate, Molitor took a walking lead against Smiley, who is in the full windup, and does this:
The steal of home was impressive. It’s a feat that is reserved for the players with turbo-charged motors, razor sharp instincts as well as some hefty cojones. Those traits propelled Molitor throughout his Hall of Fame career and through his coaching tenure. That said, the play was actually pretty meaningless in that inning and the grand scheme of the game: Yount walked (Smiley’s third) and the next batter, Franklin Stubbs, lashed a triple and the final wound up being 11-1, but an act of athleticism like Molitor’s should be celebrated.
April 27, 1994: Scott Erickson No-Hits The Brewers
This was a different Brewers team, to be sure.
After the 1992 season, they had allowed Molitor to leave Milwaukee via free agency to division rival Toronto. As Molitor helped the Blue Jays build a dynasty, the Brewers sank to the bottom of the AL East. General manager Sal Bando struggled to find a suitable replacement for Molitor’s bat in the designated hitter spot. By 1994, they were using the Twins’ 1991 World Series catcher Brian Harper in that role.
In 1994 the Twins were not in much better shape. They had a core of Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Shane Mack, Chuck Knoblauch and recent free agent signee Dave Winfield, but the rest of the roster was a skeleton crew. The pitching rotation was also bad. Kevin Tapani was aging and the young arms like Willie Banks and Pat Mahomes that the Twins expected to rise never took flight.
Then there was Scott Erickson.
Scott Erickson was never the same pitcher he was at his peak in mid-1991. The velocity was always inconsistent, he was losing the darting fastball/diving slider and hitters simply weren’t missing much. In 1993, he led the league in losses (19) and hits allowed (266) in 218.2 innings. Through his first four starts of the 1994 season, he had allowed 38 hits in 21.2 innings resulting in a shiny 7.48 ERA. Then he went out and did this against the new Brew Crew:
It had been over 26 years since the last Minnesota Twins no-hitter. The Twins would win 6-0 behind the blast of Kent Hrbek’s home run and Kirby Puckett’s two doubles. Erickson’s next start would come in Milwaukee where the Brewers would get vengeance -- they tagged him for seven runs on nine hits and chased him after the fifth inning.
May 30, 2013: Joe Mauer Goes Back-to-Back With Brian Dozier
The Twins and Brewers were both well on their way out of the 2013 race when 32,000 showed up to Target Field for the last of the four game series between the two border rivals. Minnesota had seized the first three games behind the starting pitching of Kevin Correia, Scott Diamond and Samuel Deduno. Minor league free agent P.J. Walters was entrusted with the sweep game.
Minnesota’s lineup -- headlined by lead-off hitter Jamey Carroll’s 574 OPS -- jumped all over former Twin and Brewers’ starter Kyle Lohse. In the fourth, Brian Dozier led off with a solo home run and was followed by Joe Mauer:
Mauer’s home runs have become few and far between these days but witnessing one is a thing of beauty that will be reminisced about to the following generation. Mauer home runs are not the epic, mouth-dropping moon-shots shared by Jim Thome or Harmon Killebrew. Mauer’s are unique in that the vast majority of them slip gently over the left field wall, like they were intentionally placed just one row in, with English from his left-handed swing.
In retrospect, the 2013 Twins season felt like it was close to if not the deepest, darkest period in Minnesota Twins history. Nothing was going right and there seemed to be no end to the losing in sight. Nevertheless, it still felt great to sweep the Brewers.
Interestingly enough, on the broadcast, Paul Molitor happened to be in Fox Sports North’s booth. As Mauer circled the bases, Molitor asked in jest “Should I stick around for a while?”
I suppose the current Twins fans should be glad that he did.
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