It was the other phases of the game that doomed the Brewers to an 11-3 loss to the Twins in their Interleague opener at Miller Park. The Brewers fell seven games under .500 for the low point of an already-trying season.
"We're not scoring runs the way we like to. Is that the reason we're losing? I don't think so," third baseman Aramis Ramirez said before the game. "We haven't been pitching the way we like to, either. We just have to get better in every category, offensively, defensively, and we've got to pitch better."
They did none of those things particularly well against the Twins. Instead, the Brewers ran into outs on the bases, committed more errors (four) than they scored runs and saw the Twins score their first six runs with two outs. Before Friday, the Brewers had not been seven games under .500 since September 2010.
When Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke settled into his seat for a postgame news conference, he let out a big sigh.
"To let games fall apart in the late innings like we're doing, it's hard to watch," Roenicke said.
The Brewers will play their 40th game on Saturday, the unofficial quarter pole of a 162-game season. Opening Day starter Yovani Gallardo will be on the mound, trying to author a fresh start for a team that enters the day with a 16-23 record.
"It can't be too much longer," Roenicke said. "It is a long season; certainly it's not [to the point] where I don't think we can still turn this thing around. We've got a long ways to go, I just don't want to have to have the huge, month-long streaks where it's the only way we can get back in it. We need to concentrate on getting back to .500, and then when we get hot we have a chance to take off.
"This crew can get it done. I can't answer why we're playing like we are lately, but we can get it done."
Twins rookie left-hander Scott Diamond surrendered three runs on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings but never trailed, and earned his third win in as many Major League starts. He beat Brewers starter Marco Estrada, a right-hander who allowed four runs on six hits in five innings and fell to 0-3.
Denard Span, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau each had three RBIs. Span finished with four hits.
"It was a good night for us," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We swung the bats and beat the ball around. Diamond really a nice job of holding the offense down over there. And we played pretty good defense."
Estrada was in trouble right from the start. The first four hitters hit long fly balls, two of them for hard outs, including a terrific, over-the-shoulder catch by center fielder Norichika Aoki. The fourth hitter was Twins left fielder Josh Willingham, who hit a hanging, 0-2 curveball where no outfielder could reach it. Willingham's homer gave the Twins a quick, 2-0 lead.
But Estrada believed the game turned against the Brewers much later, in the fifth inning, when he surrendered a single to Diamond. The Twins scored twice in that inning, twice more in the sixth, once in the seventh and added four runs in the eighth to put the game away.
"Me giving up a hit to the pitcher on a dumb pitch, that's what turned it around," Estrada said.
Things got worse for the Brewers in the sixth inning, when they committed three errors to spot the Twins two unearned runs against reliever Manny Parra.
Catcher Jonathan Lucroy was charged with a throwing error after a dropped third strike, first baseman Travis Ishikawa missed a grounder that went between his legs and Braun bounced a throw home that got past Lucroy.
It was 6-3 after six innings and 7-3 after seven before the Twins put the game away with their four-run eighth.
"We need our starters to start getting us some length so we don't have to go to the bullpen every night," Roenicke said.
Estrada took that challenge seriously, saying, "I'm obviously not doing my job." The Brewers are 1-4 when he starts.
Estrada remembered back to this time last year, when the team was in a similar early-season funk.
"Last year, I couldn't believe what we were going through," Estrada said. "I kept telling myself, 'How are we losing so much with such a good team.' Then, things clicked and we finished off the season with a pretty good record.
"It's the same thing with this team. We're way too good to be playing like this. Things are going to change."