When a game starts with your All-Star on the mound, it's not supposed to end with an infielder there.
So it went for the Twins on Saturday, when Tampa Bay dented Jose Berrios' All-Star credentials with one good inning, then shredded their bullpen with three explosive ones. The Rays battered Zack Duke, Matt Belisle and play-me-anywhere utility man Willians Astudillo, scored 15 runs over the final three innings and ended the Twins' three-game winning streak with a 19-6 rout at Target Field.
"It just kind of fell apart. We tried to stay close the best we could," manager Paul Molitor said after watching the Rays pile up four runs in the fourth inning, then three consecutive five-run innings to close the game. "Obviously the old 5-5-5 area code at the end was a little bit too much."
Too bad for the Twins, as the game started as a pitchers' duel between Berrios and Chris Archer, strange as that sounds about a game that featured 25 runs, and morphed into an opportunistic Twins comeback that fit right in with the team's tent-revival of a homestand.
"I kind of feel bad that I let my teammates down," said Berrios, whose next inning of work figures to come at Nationals Park on Tuesday. "They put me out front in the game, and I wasn't able to hold the other team."
That it happened twice was most concerning. Berrios was his usual dominating self for five of the first six innings, giving up only one hit in those frames. But the fourth inning was not All-Star quality: He surrendered three doubles, each of which drove home at least one run, to put the Twins in a 4-1 deficit.
"His stuff was pretty good. Velocity ticked up when he needed it. Tried to get some movement," Molitor said. "Other than the inning where we couldn't stop them and they got four, you still feel good."
Not for long, though. The Twins drove Archer, a two-time All-Star, out of the game in the fifth inning, and then put together five hits, including a go-ahead, two-run double by Eddie Rosario, to retake the lead in the sixth, seemingly delivering Berrios' 10th victory of the season.
But Berrios walked Malex Smith to open the seventh, and something seemed to change. Adeiny Hechavarria singled, and Molitor pulled Berrios. Duke gave up a soft single that fell in left field, and a grounder to the outfield, and suddenly the score was tied.
Robbie Grossman caught Jesus Sucre's shallow fly, but the Twins right fielder then slipped, enabling Kevin Kiermaier to tag up with the go-ahead run. And when Joey Wendle tripled home two runs, the rout was on.
"It's unfortunate. A bloop single, a ground ball gets through, and at that point, I'm just trying to get outs any way I can," Duke said. "The ball that Wendle hit was in the middle of the plate. Sliders in the middle, that's what happens to them. The worst part is how we battled back and took the lead right there, and I gave it right back."
Five runs off Matt Belisle turned the game ugly, and Astudillo — who has played five positions for the Twins, but not yet catcher, his listed position — added a touch of the absurd by taking the mound in the ninth. After four of the first five hitters clobbered his mid-80s fastballs for hits, pitching coach Garvin Alston visited with a message: Quit throwing so hard.
"It was a perfect hitting speed," Molitor said with a shrug. "We tried to slow him down."