It looked like Bonser would follow suit on Sunday, as he gave a dominant performance through six innings, allowing just one run on five hits while giving up three walks and striking out eight. But with the Twins holding a 3-1 lead upon Bonser's departure, the bullpen gave way.
"We came in and had a good series by taking two of three, but it doesn't feel that way because you lose today when you had a lead, and normally, our bullpen is pretty good late," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "So right now, it doesn't feel like a good series."
The problem for most of the year has been getting to the bullpen, as most of the Twins' starters carried ERAs above 7.00 to start the year.
Jesse Crain came into the game to start the seventh inning and immediately found trouble. Rickie Weeks pinch-hit for Milwaukee starter Chris Capuano to lead off the inning and thanks to a bad jump by right fielder Michael Cuddyer, recorded a triple that put the tying run at the plate.
Crain (0-2) then gave up two straight hits following the triple that scored one run and put runners at first and third. He would record one out before giving up a double to Carlos Lee that scored two and put the Brewers ahead, 4-3. Crain was then pulled and replaced by Juan Rincon.
Another run would score with Rincon pitching, Crain was charged with four runs in just one-third of an inning. It was the first rough outing in a while for Crain, who had struggled during the early part of the year.
"It's definitely frustrating," Crain said of his outing. "It's frustrating for the team to get the loss after we were winning. And it's frustrating for Boof, who was in line for the win in his first start."
Bonser impressed many on the Twins staff with the performance that he delivered. For his first Major League game, Bonser was able to hold down a difficult Brewers lineup that has challenged many.
"Bonser threw the ball fantastic and that was fun to watch," Gardenhire said. "His first start up here and we knew he would be a little nervous at the start, which he was. He misfired a little bit but once he got past that, he threw the ball super for us."
The 24-year-old pitcher admitted earlier in the week that there would be some obvious nerves. It showed quite quickly in the first as Bonser allowed the first three baserunners on and gave up one run on a sac fly.
"The first inning was crazy, I'm shocked you couldn't see my heart beating through my jersey," Bonser said. "But I got out of it and settled down from there."
Bonser got a 3-1 lead, due in part to some defensive miscues by the Brewers. Bonser scored the Twins' first run after taking advantage of an error by shortstop Bill Hall in the third. After a groundout by Luis Castillo moved Bonser to second, he scored on a Joe Mauer single to center field.
Two more Twins scored in the fourth when Tony Batista blasted a two-run shot over the left-field fence. It was the fifth home run of the year for Batista.
Although the offense couldn't make a comeback and Gardenhire was flustered by the inability to pull out a win, there still was a sense throughout the Twins clubhouse that they accomplished something in the series victory this weekend.
"You have to feel good after that," Torii Hunter said of the series win. "We came through with three rookies and won two of three."
Now the Twins must figure out who gets the remaining starting slot. Liriano has already been guaranteed the slot on Friday, so it will come down to a decision of whether Carlos Silva will be ready to rejoin the rotation or if Bonser did enough to secure the start for himself.
"I'd like to be in the rotation," Bonser said. "As long as I go out and do my job, I just have to let it fall wherever it's going to."
Doing his job on Sunday didn't guarantee Bonser an automatic spot in the rotation, but he made a first impression that could pay off sooner than later.
"I think in [pitching coach Rick Anderson's] eyes, he did [earn the starting spot]," Gardenhire said. "[Anderson] said, 'Well, there's our Saturday starter.' And he threw the ball good enough."