ANAHEIM, CALIF. – Jose Berrios wasn’t sizzling, he was surviving.
He was stung a couple times Thursday night by throwing faulty curveballs over the plate while giving up four runs in his first three innings.
In the middle of his third trip through the Angels batting order, Twins manager Paul Molitor appeared from the dugout to remove Berrios with one on and one out in the sixth inning of a tie game. Berrios had thrown 78 pitches and certainly had more in the tank. But without his good curve and the Twins just having tied the score with a four-run sixth, Molitor went to the bullpen.
The move immediately backfired as Los Angeles promptly scored two runs to take a lead they would never relinquish. Shohei Ohtani added a solo homer in the seventh and the Angels pulled away to a 7-4 victory, halting the Twins’ winning streak at five games.
"His breaking ball, I think he was afraid to use it after hanging it a couple of times," Molitor said, "and he was trying to get by with his fastball, primarily."
Ryan Pressly replaced Berrios and gave up a single to Ian Kinsler, threw a wild pitch, then gave up a sacrifice fly to Kole Calhoun. Martin Maldonado, the No. 9 hitter, followed with an RBI double to put the Angels ahead 6-4.
Trevor Hildenberger got the first two outs of the seventh before Ohtani blasted the first pitch out to center, bringing an announced crowd of 30,127 to its feet. The hitting/pitching phenom was 2-for-4 with a homer and two RBI.
"We've got to pitch him carefully, make him aware of the inside of the plate, but if you make mistakes, he's going to hit them," Molitor said of Ohtani.
It ruined everything the Twins did in the sixth to get back in the game.
Angels righthander Garrett Richards held the Twins to two hits over the first five innings and had retired 13 of 14 heading into the sixth. But the Twins got singles from Ehire Adrianza and Joe Mauer before Brian Dozier crushed a 1-1 pitch an estimated 407 feet to left for a three-run home run that cut the lead to 4-3.
Lefthander Jose Alvarez entered to face Max Kepler, who was batting .333 against lefties. Kepler took a 2-2 pitch off the bottom of his left hand while fouling a ball off, leading to a brief delay while he was looked at by the training staff.
Kepler remained in the game — and hit the next pitch into the seats in right to tie the score at 4-4.
Berrios was off the hook after putting the Twins in a 4-0 over hole the first five innings.
When Berrios’ curve ball is at its overpowering best, it appears to break as much horizontally as it does vertically.
In April, his whiff percentage with the pitch was 20.6 percent, according to Brooks Baseball. On Thursday, he didn’t get a single swing and miss with the pitch. That lead to problems.
Kinsler, hitting .191 before the game, hit a two-run homer on a hanging curve in the second to open the scoring.
It wasn’t a fluke, as Berrios hung another curve to Justin Upton in the third that landed in the seats for his ninth home run and a 3-0 Angels lead. Albert Pujols followed with a double, then Berrios threw a changeup that didn’t change much — until Ohtani smacked it to right-center for an RBI double, putting Los Angeles ahead 4-0.
"It's something I have to keep learning," Berrios said of his breaking ball. "When I have it on, it is on. My last four starts, I haven't been able to throw it over the plate like I'm used to. I'm going to keep working on it."