Swarzak pitches seven shutout innings in debut to guide Twins over Brewers

MINNEAPOLIS -- Anthony Swarzak found a fine way to make a major league debut: Throw to Joe Mauer, then watch him build you a lead between innings.

Mauer had three hits, a homer and two RBIs to help Swarzak win his first start, pushing the Minnesota Twins past the Brewers 6-2 on Saturday and ensuring Milwaukee's first series loss in five weeks.

"He came up here and showed he belongs," said Mauer, who helped keep the 23-year-old Swarzak calm by calling for the right pitches in the right places and checking on the rookie's composure with a couple of well-timed jogs to the mound.

Swarzak sprinkled five singles over seven shutout innings, walking two and striking out three. He had runners on with one out or less in five different innings, but used an effective sinker to escape without damage and consistently threw first-pitch strikes.

"That's the Twins' motto for sure. I've heard it for many years," Swarzak said.

With more than a dozen friends and family members up from Florida to watch, Swarzak couldn't have imagined a better night. He gave teammates high fives for routine catches and spoke afterward what an "honor" it was to have Mauer as his catcher.

"That's pretty special to step into the big leagues with that performance in a jam-packed stadium," manager Ron Gardenhire said.

The Brewers had won eight of their last 10 series, splitting two, while surging to the top of the NL Central following a 4-9 start. This is their first two-game losing streak since the first two days of May.

With thousands of Wisconsinites filling out the crowd of 40,547, a chant of "Let's Go Brewers!" began when Ryan Braun's first-inning pop-up fell in for a one-out single to put runners on first and second with Prince Fielder at the plate.

Twins fans started to boo, and Swarzak gave them the noise advantage back.

"I threw that strike in there, and they went crazy," he said. "That was a good feeling. I will never forget that."

Fielder struck out looking, on a fastball caught the corner of the plate.

"You're not going to go out there and slug all the time," manager Ken Macha said. "The Twins aren't going to give things to you. They're No. 1 in the league in fewest walks. You've got to out there and earn the runs that you do score."

Minnesota's second-round draft pick in 2004, Swarzak will probably be bumped from the rotation when Glen Perkins returns next week, but he might be able to stay in the bullpen. After being suspended for 50 games for testing positive for a drug of abuse two years ago, Swarzak has risen to top prospect status. He impressed Gardenhire with his work ethic in spring training.

"He was kind of on a mission," the manager said.

Mauer's hitting like he's on a mission, too.

He hit his ninth home run -- his career high is 13 -- in just his 21st game, a two-out liner to left in the fifth against Braden Looper (4-3) that made it 5-0 Minnesota. Mauer scored three runs and drew a walk, too, and has hit in 18 of those 21 games since coming off the disabled list.

"I still don't have an answer for you. I'm just seeing the ball well," he said.

Joe Crede homered for the Twins, who used Braun's first throwing error in 190 games as a left fielder to take a 3-0 lead in the third. It was Mauer, of course, who set up the play with an opposite-field single through the hole.

As one run scored, Denard Span raced for third but neither third baseman Bill Hall nor shortstop Craig Counsell were to the base in time. The throw skipped through to the dugout to let Span score and Mauer take third. He scored on Justin Morneau's sacrifice fly.

Looper has given up five runs in three of his last four starts.

Since Mauer returned on May 1, the Twins are second in the majors with 139 runs -- an average of more than 6 per game.

"They've got a dangerous lineup, and right now they're feeling pretty hot," Looper said. "I just wasn't able to make enough good pitches. I wasn't very good to begin with."

Game notes
The only other Twins pitcher to throw seven or more shutout innings in his debut was Jeff Holly, as a reliever in 1977. ... Hall is 1-for-25 on this trip and hitting .172 against RH pitchers this year. ... The bat Minnesota's Michael Cuddyer broke on his triple that completed the cycle in Friday's game has been sent to the Hall of Fame. ... RF Corey Hart, who has a mild bruise on his hand, was given the night off. That gave Jody Gerut, acquired two days earlier from the Padres, his first start for the Brewers.