MINNEAPOLIS — There was a dominant pitching performance at Target Field on Thursday, just not by the Twin who has thrown many of them in his career.
A suddenly-shaky Ervin Santana faltered in the afternoon affair as the Twins lost 5-1 to Colorado. But young Jose Berrios shined in the night game, pitching like an ace in a 2-0 victory over the Rockies that ended a three-game losing streak and enabled the Twins to avoid being swept in the interleague series.
Berrios backed up his season debut on Saturday in Cleveland with an even more dominant outing on Thursday. The reactions of Rockies hitters said it all as Berrios held them to two hits over seven innings, a ground single to right by Gerardo Parra in the fifth and a line single by Carlos Gonzalez off shortstop Ehrie Adrianza’s glove in the seventh.
Other than that, Colorado hitters flailed at Berrios’ fastball as if it was 100 miles per hour and swung over the top of his breaking ball. Nolan Arenado looked a breaking ball for strike three in the fourth and immediately spun around to march back to the dugout. Ian Desmond missed a breaking ball in the seventh as he struck out and shook his head as he retreated.
Fans in attendance began to cheer with anticipation when Berrios reached two strikes on hitters, and the roars increased as the game continued.
When Berrios issued a two-out walk to pinch hitter Tony Wolters in the eighth, the cheers turned to boos. Twins manager Paul Molitor went to the mound and replaced Berrios with left-hander Taylor Rogers. The decision was a sound one, because the tying run was at the plate in lefty Charlie Blackmon. Blackmon flied out to the warning track in center to end the inning.
Berrios ended up being the rotation stopper after Santana gave up five runs over seven innings in the first game — and did so in dominant fashion. Berrios threw first pitch strikes to 10 of the first 11 batters he faced. He went to three-ball counts just three times. He was either 0-2 or 1-2 on hitters 12 times.
In 72/3 innings shutout innings, Berrios walked one batter while striking out 11. The strikeouts were a career high and season high for a Twins pitcher.
In two outings since being called up from Class AAA Rochester, Berrios has a 0.59 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 151/3 innings.
Perhaps Berrios could have at least finished the eighth inning if he had a bigger cushion, but the Twins offense managed just two runs despite making Colorado starter Tyler Chatwood throw 75 pitches over the first three innings. They got an RBI single from Max Kepler in the first inning but still stranded two runners. They stranded two more runners in the second. Byron Buxton stuck out with the bases loaded to end the third. They were 1 for 5 with runners in scoring position at that point, 1-for-14 including the first game. They ended up stranding 20 runners on base in the two games.
Adrianza led off the fourth with a double and scored on Robbie Grossman’s single to give the Twins a 2-0 lead, and that was all Berrios had to work with. But it was more than enough.
Colorado’s first two baserunners were hit batters. Berrios had seven strikeouts through four innings. Once Parra singled in the fifth for the Rockies first hit, he was thrown out attempting to steal second, and Berrios struck out the next two batters. Of the 27 batters Berrios faced, he threw first pitch strikes to 21 of them. Staying in front of hitters allowed him to dictate the action, and that led to his marvelous night.
©2017 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
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