For the third time in four days, the Twins offense fell flat, with only four runners reaching second base all day, and only two crossing home plate.
But they have found a way to make their slump irrelevant. The secret: Put Jose Berrios on the mound.
Berrios made the Twins’ two runs feel like 12, so dominant was he Sunday, shutting out Texas on three hits while striking out a career-high 12. The result was a 2-0 victory over his former teammate and quasi-mentor, Bartolo Colon, and an end to a dreary three-game losing streak.
“What a day,” said catcher Bobby Wilson, who caught Berrios’ seven-inning gem and drove in the only run the righthander would need to record his fifth consecutive victory in Target Field. “Every time when I warm him up before the game, I have it in my head that it’s going to be a special day. He’s just that electric of a pitcher. … His stuff is pure elite.”
Berrios’ timing couldn’t be better, because the Twins now embark on a nine-game road trip to Chicago and Milwaukee, with their pennant-race hopes gradually becoming more remote. Cleveland finished off a sweep of Detroit on Sunday — the Indians’ seventh consecutive victory after losing twice to the Twins last weekend — and maintained an eight-game stranglehold in what’s left of the AL Central race.
“You’d like to think, in the back of your mind, that this is the day we really need this guy to step up,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said gratefully. “And then the first guy hits the ball off the wall.”
Oh, yeah. Berrios’ first pitch Sunday, a belt-high fastball on the outside corner to Shin-Soo Choo, was swatted to center and missed landing in the Rangers bullpen by about 6 inches — not the best omen for a team growing desperate for a win.
“He surprised me. I threw a fastball right down the pipe, and he obviously connected,” Berrios said. “That kind of gave me a heads-up, like, ‘Oh, OK, game on here.’ ”
Thus jolted, Berrios quickly neutralized the double, with a little help. He struck out Jurickson Profar and got Nomar Mazara to hit a routine fly ball, but then gave up a hard-hit single to Adrian Beltre. But Choo, seeing Eddie Rosario reach the ball quickly, slowed as he approached third base, then stayed there.
“That’s respect. He knows Eddie has a great arm,” Berrios said. “He knew he would have been thrown out.”
Choo agreed. “He has a great arm, one of the best arms in baseball,” said Choo, who has reached base in 37 games in a row. “As soon as it was hit, I was running, but I saw [third-base coach Tony] Beasley make the call and stop me. When he got the ball I hadn’t even touched third base. He made the right decision.”
Well, maybe. Rougned Odor struck out to end the threat, and the Rangers had only one more hit the rest of the day, a seventh-inning bunt single.
The Twins did just enough vs. Colon, their 45-year-old former teammate, to support their ace.
“Getting runners over, we didn’t do very well with that,” Molitor said. “Guys didn’t get it done as far as moving people. But we got a couple of two-out hits.”
Robbie Grossman doubled to lead off the fourth inning, then came home two outs later on Wilson’s broken-bat single to left, giving Berrios all the cushion he would need. Grossman added to it an inning later, though, singling home Eddie Rosario.
“We had a rough couple of days there,” Wilson said of the Twins offense, which was held to two runs or less three times in four days. “But everybody is trying to help. We’re trying to get through this.”