HOUSTON – The Twins sought revenge against the Astros on Friday for a three-game sweep in Target Field back in May, only to be reminded of why they sought revenge in the first place.
They were pulverized, once again, by baseball's juggernaut as the Astros won 10-5 at Minute Maid Park. Houston knocked out starter Jose Berrios in the second inning, then continued the battery on reliever Phil Hughes as the Astros moved to 15-5 over their past 20 games.
"I understand that they are in first place in their division and they are really hot right now," said Berrios (8-3), whose 1⅔-inning stint was his shortest outing of the season. "That doesn't mean you don't follow your game plan. I followed my game plan, but they were ahead in most of the counts, and that's how they were able to get to me early."
Brian Dozier led off the game with his 21st career leadoff homer, setting a team record. Then the Astros took over.
Berrios struck out Brian McCann to start the second, but the next eight Astros reached base. Actually, the inning could have been vastly different.
With a man on and one out, Yuli Gurriel sent a grounder to shortstop Jorge Polanco that should have been converted into at least one out. Polanco tried to scoop up the ball with his glove and shovel it to Dozier at second, giving them a shot at a double play.
Polanco botched the shovel, and both runners were safe. Berrios gave up three consecutive run-scoring hits, walked a batter, gave up a sacrifice fly and then an RBI single to Carlos Correa as Houston took a 5-1 lead. Berrios was replaced by Hughes, whose 0-2 changeup to McCann was hit for a three-run homer, making it 8-1.
Polanco's error undoubtedly was costly, but Berrios has to wear some of this, too. He threw 29 pitches after the error and failed to control the damage. He fell behind on 11 of the 13 batters he faced, so he really wasn't in position to bail out his shortstop.
"A lot of times you look for your pitchers to pick you up when you make a defensive mistake," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "That didn't happen."
What should be more concerning to the Twins than the rout is that Berrios has a 7.11 ERA over his past four starts.
Houston led 10-1 after three innings but left the door cracked open. Dozier cleared the bases with a double in fourth to make it 10-4. The Twins loaded the bases again in the fifth and sixth innings, but they could only muster one run out of that, on a sacrifice fly.
While they walked nine times — tied for the most in a nine-inning game this season — they were 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position in a game in which they could have retaliated.
The Twins publicly stated their desire to pay the Astros back for the three games played at Target Field in May, when they were outscored 40-16. A tall task. Houston led the majors at the All-Star break with 527 runs scored and had three players — George Springer, Jose Altuve and Correa — among the top five in the AL in on-base-plus-slugging percentage.
Houston has outscored the Twins 50-21 this season and 99-42 over nine meetings going back to last season.
"They are a tough team to slow down," Molitor said before the game. "Looking at their numbers, you always get a 'who's hot,' page, and they are pretty much all on it. And their numbers looks more like American Legion than American League."