BOSTON — Few AL starters are as familiar to the Twins as Chris Sale. None of the Red Sox have ever taken even a single at-bat against Jose Berrios. So maybe we’ll find out how much familiarity matters tonight when the first-place Twins open a four-game series in Fenway Park tonight.
Sale may be the runaway strikeout leader in the AL this year and own the fourth-best ERA thus far. But the Twins have hung six losses on him over the years, four of them in 2015, when they kept smacking him around like a rookie junkballer. Sale had a 7.36 ERA in six starts against Minnesota that season, a stretch that has little to do with tonight’s game, yet can’t help but give the Twins a little confidence, even now.
“I’m not banking on the past success. I know what Chris is capable of,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “We know it’s tough when you face a guy like Chris. [We have to] try to have good at-bats and don’t get frustrated by a punch-out early in the game. Take each at-bat on its own and try to make the next one count.”
Twins rookies did the usual on-the-field-early tour of this 105-year-old park this afternoon, a familiar ritual to Molitor. “You remember the first time you come here. For me, it was as a collegiate player. I got to watch Carl Yastrzemski take batting practice as he was recovering from an injury,” Molitor said, one Hall of Fame speaking of another. “It’s a great place to play. It’s unique, the angles are unique, the fans are unique. For the guys coming here for the first time, it’s a special occurrence.”
That goes for Berrios, too, since he’s never pitched here before. But Molitor doesn’t think the righthander’s composure will be a problem.
“He’s been through enough, between his experiences up here and the WBC,” the manager said. “It’s going to be exciting for him, but I don’t think it will overwhelm him by any means.”
The Red Sox just lost two straight games to the Angels this weekend, after losing two of three in Kansas City, so the home fans are a little restless as this matchup of first-place teams gets underway.
Here are the lineups for the first of four games against Boston: