Kenta Maeda comes 3 outs shy of no-hitter for Twins vs. Brewers
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 Urías 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.