MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Twins weren’t sure what to expect from J.R. Graham in his first major league start.
The rookie right-hander hung in there for four innings against former Twins pitcher Matt Garza, but Carlos Gomez did plenty of damage against the Minnesota bullpen.
Gomez went 4 for 4 with a walk and drove in three runs during the last three innings to lift the Milwaukee Brewers to a 4-2 victory Saturday.
Due to a doubleheader in Boston this week and another injury to Ricky Nolasco, the Twins had an opening in the rotation for Graham, their Rule 5 draft pick from the Atlanta organization who hadn’t pitched above Double-A prior to this season. The Twins have gradually worked him into more meaningful situations, culminating with this game.
Graham threw 63 pitches. He gave up six hits without a walk, striking out three.
“We got out of him what we hoped to,” manager Paul Molitor said. “I’m sure he was excited, amped up a little bit, a lot of adrenaline. But we’ll take the four innings and one earned run.”
Graham would’ve preferred another inning but said otherwise he couldn’t complain about the experience.
“I’d say it was a good step in the right direction,” he said.
Unfortunately for the Twins, the game was a good step in the right direction for Garza and Gomez, too.
Minnesota reliever Ryan Pressly (3-2) did not allow any runs in the fifth despite throwing 12 straight balls to start the inning, but he gave up a leadoff single to Jean Segura in the seventh. Gomez smacked the first pitch from Blaine Boyer, the third reliever of the inning, into center field for a two-run single that put the Brewers up 3-1.
“He’s so aggressive that you think you might have a chance to wiggle your way out of a jam,” Molitor said. “You’re hoping his free swing can get you a strikeout.”
Not on this day.
Gomez is batting .369 with 19 RBIs in 24 career games against the Twins, his team from 2008-09. Garza, a first-round draft pick by the Twins in 2005, has a 1.66 ERA in four career starts against them.
It was Gomez’s first four-hit game in more than a year. He could have done even more damage had he not been thrown out twice trying to retreat to second base.
“I think on the bases he’s looking to do all of us a favor and speed the game up a little bit, which we appreciate,” joked teammate Ryan Braun, who homered off Graham onto the grassy berm behind center field in the first inning.
Another runner didn’t cross the plate again until Joe Mauer drove in Brian Dozier with the tying single for the Twins in the sixth.
Garza (4-7) threw seven strong innings, retiring his first 11 batters before Mauer beat out an infield single.
Francisco Rodriguez pitched a hitless ninth for his 10th save in 10 tries after Dozier hit his 11th homer for the Twins off Jonathan Broxton in the eighth.
Milwaukee had six hits in its first 12 at-bats against Graham, who stopped that streak with a strikeout to end the third, stranding two runners.
“There’s always nerves when you take the mound,” Graham said. “But I stayed within myself and tried to focus on each pitch.”
Brewers: Braun’s absence from the lineup on Friday was more precautionary on manager Craig Counsell’s part. “I want him the closest to 100 percent we can get him. If it costs us a couple of games over the long term, that’s the best way to do it,” Counsell said.
Twins: Nolasco had the cortisone shot in his right ankle to relieve discomfort from a bone fragment, but general manager Terry Ryan said the effect of the injection on the right-hander’s recovery won’t be clear until he begins throwing next week.
Mike Fiers (2-5, 4.06 ERA) will pitch for the Brewers in the series finale on Sunday with Mike Pelfrey (4-2, 2.59 ERA) taking the mound for the Twins. Fiers is coming off his best start of the season, six scoreless innings in a 1-0 victory at St. Louis with six baserunners allowed and six strikeouts. Pelfrey has allowed only three runs over his last three starts, spanning 20 innings.
(© Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)