NEW YORK – Jose Berrios rolled a single to right field off Bartolo Colon in the third inning Friday — his first major league hit on his first major league swing — and beamed as he spoke to first base coach Butch Davis.
“I told Butch Davis that this is awesome,” Berrios said. “I would love to do this every day.”
Berrios outhit Colon — but could not outpitch him.
If Berrios is smart, he will remember how Colon, 43, conducted surgery on the strike zone with fastball after fastball, and how much work Berrios needs to do on his own game. He was pulled following four sloppy innings while the veteran led the Mets to a 3-0 victory over the Twins on Friday night at Citi Field.
It was a rough start to the three-game series for the Twins, as Paul Molitor faced the Mets for the first time as a player, coach or manager, and Berrios was allowed to start after the coaching staff considered moving him to the bullpen.
When Colon made his major league debut April 4, 1997, Berrios was 2 years and 10 months old. Now 22, the Twins rookie righthander is well aware of Colon’s story and longevity. And he saw why Friday as Colon (14-7) tossed seven innings, giving up three hits and two walks with six strikeouts.
“It’s great a guy of his age, a seasoned veteran, being able to paint the corners like that is awesome,” Berrios said. “It is the reason he is still pitching in the big leagues.”
Berrios still is trying to find his way. He altered his windup Friday to try to throw more strikes. But he threw 80 pitches over four innings. His downfall was pitches he slotted to Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera in the third inning that became back-to-back homers for the defending National League champions.
Berrios (2-7) was in trouble from the start, walking the bases loaded in the first inning before getting T.J. Rivera to fly out. Berrios didn’t give up a hit, but he threw 31 pitches. Colon didn’t throw his 31st pitch until the third inning.
“I went over and told him it might not be the prettiest zero you put up, but it was a zero,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “Regroup and get yourself back out there.”
Berrios rebounded with a 1-2-3 second. That ended a run of eight consecutive starts in which Berrios had given up a run in one of the two first innings. But he faltered big-time in the third, first hanging a 2-2 breaking ball that Reyes launched into the seats in right. Berrios then placed a 2-0 thigh-fastball on the inner half of the plate, and Cabrera pulverized the pitch into the second deck in right as Citi Field erupted.
Colon didn’t need much more support than that. He was in the most trouble in the third inning when, with two outs, Berrios rolled a single to the right and Brian Dozier beat out an infield hit. Joe Mauer was up next, and Colon walked him like he didn’t care. That brought Jorge Polanco to the plate. Colon worked the rookie for a fly out to left.
Colon retired 11 of the next 13 batters he faced. The Mets added a run in the eighth.
Berrios’ uneven outing still was his best big-league performance since his last victory Aug. 1, as he lowered his ERA to 8.88. He’s a long way from where Colon is, with 232 career victories. But Berrios sounded determined to make the necessary adjustments.
“I think my confidence is still where it was at the beginning of the year or where it’s always been,” Berrios said.
“Of course, what you said, it’s such a different level. I’m not going to say my confidence has been 100 percent all the time. There are times when you kind of put your head down. But that doesn’t mean you stop working.”