BALTIMORE – Though nobody knew it at the time, the Twins’ season-opening series finale Sunday was over after one pitch.
Brian Dozier smashed that 91-mile-per-hour fastball from Kevin Gausman into the left-field seats, and just like that, Jose Berrios had all the run support he would need to make it a happy Easter. Jake Odorizzi pitched six shutout innings on Thursday, Kyle Gibson threw six hitless innings Saturday, and yet somehow the 23-year-old managed to outpitch both, recording his first career shutout, first career complete game and first victory of the season, a 7-0 three-hitter against the flummoxed Orioles.
The Twins, who hit four homers on the day and seven in the series, leave Maryland with warm memories of cozy Camden Yards, the ballpark that set them off to an 0-9 start just two seasons ago. They have, um, upgraded the pitching since than.
“He followed suit after Jake and Gibby. You know, the starters haven’t given up a run yet,” marveled manager Paul Molitor. “That’s pretty good after three games here in Baltimore.”
It’s pretty good anywhere, anytime. Twins starters contributed 21 consecutive scoreless innings during this series — recorded 41 consecutive outs without allowing so much as a hit, matter of fact — marking the first time the franchise has received nothing but zeros from its rotation for three consecutive games since 2014. Baltimore had only 11 hits over the entire series.
And Berrios left the Orioles flailing, mixing a 94-mph fastball with a funhouse curveball that breaks as much side-to-side as it does vertically. Berrios retired 25 of the first 26 hitters he faced, 17 in a row at one point, and the lone hit in that time could have been caught. Chance Sisco hit a third-inning fly ball that came down just short of the left-field wall, glancing off Eddie Rosario’s glove for a double.
“It’s kind of baseball’s way — a guy takes a no-hitter there if that play were to be made,” Molitor said. “Rosie did a nice job getting back there, [but] it just deflected off his glove. It kind of took some of the drama out of what might have unfolded, but that’s fine. I don’t think Jose is going to be too disappointed with a shutout.”
Disappointed, no. Satisfied might be another matter. Was it his best performance in the major leagues? “Yes,” said Berrios, “but I want more.”
The Orioles wanted no more of him. Berrios needed 57 pitches, only 16 of them balls, to mow through the first six innings. Baltimore hitters struck out six times Sunday, hit seven popups, 10 routine ground balls (into several extreme defensive shifts), and zero balls that were remotely threatening.
The only blemish that prevented Berrios from recording the Twins’ first one-hitter since an Ervin Santana masterpiece last April: a bunt-induced hiccup in the ninth. Sisco pushed one toward third base, vacated by another of the Twins’ frequent shifts, and the Twins grumbled a bit afterward about the play. Berrios then walked Chris Davis and gave up a soft line drive into center by Manny Machado, loading the bases. But Berrios ended the 106-pitch beauty by whiffing Adam Jones with a sideways-breaking curve.
“We were going to ride him and see where it went. Obviously a chance to get his first big-league shutout, we were pulling for that,” Molitor said. “It got a little bit interesting there in the ninth … [but] there were just a lot of positives to get off to a start like that for him.”
Gausman, the Orioles’ second-best pitcher a year ago, was not so lucky. After Dozier lined his first pitch into the seats — his 28th career leadoff home run, and fourth on the first pitch — things just got worse. He walked Joe Mauer, Rosario bunted against a shift for a hit, and Eduardo Escobar doubled and Byron Buxton singled, producing a four-run inning.
Then the Twins’ power took over, with Miguel Sano and Escobar each crushing home runs off Gausman. Dozier put the cap on the day himself, collecting his eighth career two-homer game by launching another against Pedro Araujo.
“It puts us on a pretty good pace,” Molitor joked of his power-hitting team. “I thought they were all just really good approaches. For Esco to stay on a changeup and hit it to center, and then Miggy going the other way — you know when he’s hitting the ball over there with authority, he’s in a pretty good place.”
And when the Twins pitch like this, they all are.