KANSAS CITY, MO. – Maybe the Twins don’t have anything left to play for, but Jose Berrios certainly does. The climb from Class AAA to the major leagues has been particularly steep for the rookie righthander, so any cobwebs of doubt that he can sweep out of his consciousness will make for a more optimistic offseason.
He got rid of a few of them on Tuesday — but perhaps not as many as the Twins would have liked.
Berrios retired the first six batters he faced for the first time in his big-league career, but still allowed three runs in fewer than five innings. And while the bullpen held the Royals scoreless for five innings, the Twins’ meek offense couldn’t capitalize, and Kansas City eventually walked off with a 4-3, 11-inning victory at Kauffman Stadium.
There’s an eerie numerical symmetry about the Twins’ 101st loss, just one short of the franchise record: It occurred because Minnesota could not end its incredible streak of 101 consecutive innings, dating to Sept. 15, without scoring more than one run.
“We had maybe a handful of [scoring] opportunities,” manager Paul Molitor said. “Just didn’t work out.”
That’s because the Twins went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position, and their lone home run came, as usual, with nobody on base. Given all that time to mount a rally, the Royals finally did, with rookie Raul Mondesi leading off the 11th inning with a walk, stealing second and being bunted to third, then scoring the game-winner on a sacrifice fly deep enough that Byron Buxton had no chance to throw him out.
It was the Royals’ 14th win in 17 games against the Twins this year, and eighth without a loss at Kauffman. And it spoiled what Berrios had hoped would be his first victory since Aug. 1 — a hope dashed when Molitor removed him with the Twins in front 3-2 and two outs in the fifth inning.
“I felt good, I felt confident, I felt I was doing a good job,” Berrios said. “I was surprised [to be pulled], but he’s the manager. Whatever his decision is, you have to respect that and move on.”
The Twins hope Berrios is able to move on to a solid season next year, and there are some positive signs. For only the second time in his 13 career starts (not counting last Wednesday’s game that was washed away by rain after three innings), he completed three innings without allowing a run. A leadoff walk in the fourth inning was followed by a double by Whit Merrifield and a run-scoring single by Eric Hosmer, but Berrios limited the damage to just two runs by inducing a double- play grounder from Kendrys Morales.
“There were some positives there. He got a lot of outs on changeups, which we haven’t been able to say too frequently,” Molitor said.
Berrios is showing signs of being able to work out of trouble — but keeping himself from getting into trouble remains an inconsistent proposition. Part of the reason, Molitor said, is Berrios’ mechanics. But part of it, as with most rookies, is mental.
“The mechanics are something you continually try to improve upon, and the mental aspect is a huge part of our game,” Molitor said. “The confidence and how that comes along is what needs to be looked at, in terms of not only Jose but a lot of our other guys who had to endure that this year.”