MILWAUKEE (AP)—Scott Baker is no longer worrying about his results. His new mantra is to be prepared and have fun, and that change of philosophy may make all the difference in his future with the Twins.
Baker, a once heralded prospect who hasn’t been able to stick in Minnesota in two seasons, pitched into the ninth in his first major league appearance this year to lead the newly buzzed Twins to their 12th straight interleague victory, beating the Milwaukee Brewers 5-2 Saturday night.
“If I feel like I did everything I could, that’s peace of mind, that’s the way I look at it,” said Baker, who acknowledged he talked to sports performance coaches and relied on his faith after being demoted last season. “It’s supposed to be fun, if it’s not fun, why are we doing this? So, I’m having fun, enjoying it.”
Right now, it’s not much fun for the Brewers, who have lost seven of nine. Before the slump, they had the best record in the majors at 24-10.
“For all the things going our way the first couple of weeks, they aren’t right now,” Brewers starter Dave Bush said. “(But) it’ll turn back before you know it.”
Baker (1-0), who made the team out of spring training last season but faltered down the stretch and again this March, earned his first victory since Aug. 17. He gave up six hits, leaving after Bill Hall’s solo home run with one out in the ninth.
“He’s throwing the ball really good. Different,” Twins manager Rod Gardenhire said. “He gave us everything he had, we really enjoyed that performance by him, to see him come back like that was also very big for him. He’s made a lot of good adjustments.”
Called up from Triple-A Rochester on Friday, Baker was efficient in the zone, throwing 71 of his 96 pitches for strikes. He struck out five and walked none in the longest outing of his career.
“I changed my perspective on the whole thing,” Baker said. “I think a lot of times we’re too result oriented and this game is such a result oriented, stat game. There’s too much emphasis on that. It’s about the process, it’s about enjoying this time. If you put the preparation in and do the best you can that’s all you can control.”
Baker got a shaving cream pie in his face after the game, and had his head shaved before it.
The already baldheaded Hunter, who teased closer Joe Nathan incessantly in the clubhouse before the game about not getting his hair cropped, answered in the second when he connected off Bush (3-4) for his 10th homer.
Nathan said after the game he had his locks sheared just before the first pitch, and that his wife would flip over his new hairdo.
“I’m going to have to take a picture so she doesn’t go into shock when I get home,” Nathan said.
“I like this park, this park is pretty sweet,” said Hunter, who was bolstered by another extremely vocal Twins crowd who made the five-hour road trip from Minneapolis. “I love it, I love it, it’s electrifying.”
That was more than enough offense for Baker, who consistently stayed ahead of the Brewers hitters, including an eight-pitch eighth inning where he hit 94 mph on the stadium’s radar gun.
“He’s told himself to relax and enjoy the game of baseball and not put so much pressure on himself and let his talent flow,” Gardenhire said. “You can obviously see a difference in his face. the way he handled himself, he was very confident.”
Over the last seven games, Milwaukee has lost its confidence, batting .182 and averaging 2.6 runs per game. J.J. Hardy hit his NL-leading 14th homer in the first, matching the home run total of his first two seasons, but that was it until the ninth.
“We swung the bats better,” Brewers manager Ned Yost said. “The way things are going now, you hit a ball hard and it’s right at somebody. It’s the way it goes when you’re struggling.”
The last time a shortstop led the NL in homers this late in the year was when Hubie Brooks was tied for the lead with 13 on June 8, 1986, for the Montreal Expos, while the last shortstop to lead the NL in homers was Ernie Banks with 41 in 1960. … The Brewers and Twins wore caps honoring the branches of the military as part of Armed Forces Night. … Brewers CF Bill Hall, a converted infielder, took grounders at third base for the first time this season. Hall, sweating hard after a session of sharply hit balls, said it was doubtful he’d play there unless there was an emergency. The Brewers third-base platoon of Tony Graffanino and Craig Counsell came into Saturday’s game a combined .216 with one homer and 15 RBIs while 2B Rickie Weeks (wrist) is not expected to play in this series.