First, Byron Buxton floated a single to right. Miguel Sano sent a laser in that direction, too. And Max Kepler followed with a shot to left-centerfield.
They were all opposite-field hits, and the Twins used that approach to ignite a big third inning that helped them topple the Orioles 6-4 at Target Field.
“You know me,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “I like it when we take advantage of the whole field and not get too pull-conscious there. We kind of bunched them together there and it was nice.”
The Twins have won all four games with the Orioles this season, and five in a row going back to last season.
Five of the Twins’ eight hits were to the opposite field. Three came during the six-run third to bring the Twins back from a 2-0 deficit. And it made things easier for an occasionally erratic Jose Berrios, who improved to 8-2.
Berrios had served up a two-run homer to Mark Trumbo in the second, but the Twins struck back one inning later.
Jason Castro was hit by a Dylan Bundy pitch to start the inning, then Buxton lifted a single just over second baseman Jonathan Schoop to put two men on.
Robbie Grossman reached on a fielder’s choice when first baseman Trey Mancini fielded his grounder but threw too late to second to force out the speedy Buxton. That loaded the bases for Sano, who rocketed a single to right to score Castro. Kepler followed with his single to left-center to drive in Buxton and Grossman for a 3-2 Twins lead.
Eduardo Escobar — how dare he — broke the run by pulling the ball almost over the right field wall. His two-run triple to right made it 5-2. Escobar later scored on a fielder’s choice. The six runs gave the Twins 55 in the third inning this season, their second-highest-scoring inning so far. And it helped knock back an Orioles team that fell to 0-4 on their current road trip and 15-29 overall away from Camden Yards.
The game plan Thursday, as conceived by hitting coach James Rowson and assistant hitting coach Rudy Hernandez, was to be prepared to use the whole field.
“They told us this guy was going to throw a lot of breaking balls,” Escobar said. “Have an inside-out swing and hit everything to the opposite side. Now, if the ball comes inside, pull it, like I did for the triple.”
Berrios wasn’t sharp, and admitted he had trouble gripping the ball on a warm night in the Twin Cities. He even plunked Adam Jones squarely in the back in the third with a curveball that slipped out of his fingers. That loaded the bases with two outs, but he got Trumbo to ground out to end that inning.
In six innings, Berrios gave up four runs (three earned) on seven hits with four strikeouts. He threw 101 pitches, and only 60 of them were strikes. It was the fewest strikes he’s had in a game this season in which he’s thrown over 100 pitches. He only threw first-pitch strikes to 13 of the 27 batters he faced.
But he managed to get through six innings, and benefited by one big inning from his offense.
“It was definitely a second wind they gave to me,” Berrios said. “They do the job, picking me up. And that’s what’s so good about them.”