There was the 10-pitch fifth inning that was pretty much a breeze. Then there was the seven-pitch sixth that generated three quick flyouts.
And then there was the five-pitch eighth inning that went single to left, three-pitch strikeout, double play.
Jose Berrios’ nickname is “La Máquina” — The Machine. And the machine was working perfectly Wednesday as Berrios devoured Chicago’s lineup to lead the Twins to a 4-2 victory at Target Field.
Miguel Sano homered for the second consecutive day, and the Twins offense knocked out a Chicago starter early once again. But it was Berrios who was the boss as he rolled to his fourth consecutive victory. In eight innings, he gave up two runs on four hits and one walk with eight strikeouts. At one point, he retired 14 of 15 batters. Chicago didn’t have a hit from the fourth through the seventh innings.
After the quick eighth, Berrios was sitting on 97 pitches and could have gone out for the ninth, but manager Paul Molitor went with closer Brandon Kintzler, who gave up a two-out single to Avisail Garcia but still earned his 19th save.
“There may be a time where he gets that opportunity, maybe with a little different score,” Molitor said, “but I wanted to go to Kintzler there.”
Berrios threw 12 or fewer pitches in six of his eight innings. While his eye-popping curveball was front and center again, he also used a two-seamed, or sinking fastball, that helped him get nine ground-ball outs.
“I hope that is some of the things that he’s learning,” Molitor said, “the fact that he can get some quicker innings by trying to not strike everybody out and pitch to weak contact. That’s what gets you deeper into games.”
The Twins have won the first two games of the series and if they can sweep the White Sox on Thursday would end their homestand with a 5-6 record. That seemed unlikely after they were swept in four games by Cleveland over the weekend. But the Twins have forced Chicago starters to pitch only six innings over the first two games of this series. And they got a big lift from Berrios on Wednesday.
Berrios (7-1) has won his past four starts and has pitched eight innings in each of his past two outings. After posting an 8.02 ERA in 14 starts last season, Berrios is proving why he was the Twins’ top starting pitching prospect as he moved through the system.
“Last year, I gave a lot of credit to the hitters,” Berrios said, “so this year, I don’t care who is hitting. I’m trying to think about my pitches and make them.”
As Berrios spoke to the media, outfielder Eddie Rosario screamed “Máquina!” from the other side of the clubhouse.
Chicago took a 2-1 lead in the third inning when Adam Engel scored on a fielder’s choice. But Miguel Sano hit a 3-0 pitch from White Sox lefthander David Holmberg an estimated 414 feet and over the right field wall in the bottom of the third to tie the score at 2-2.
“You don’t see righthanders go up there too often,” Molitor said.
The Twins added two more runs that inning, on an RBI single by Max Kepler and a fielder’s choice grounder by Ehire Adrianza. The Twins were 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position or they could have broken the game open.
But a two-run cushion was enough, because “La Máquina” was well-oiled.
“This year he has a different mentality,” Sano said. “He’s been working hard all season. He’s come here to pitch.”