Have no fear, Jose Berrios. Once the playoffs arrive, you can focus on the Astros or Yankees. The Kansas City Royals can’t pester you anymore.
Berrios, whose two bounceback starts after a monthlong slump allayed some Twin Cities fears about the righthander’s readiness for a postseason series, was fine again for five innings Saturday, then fell victim to an odd pattern. He’s faced the Royals three times this year, been handed a lead in all three — and failed to hold it each time.
The Royals rallied from three back against the Twins’ two-time All-Star, and pinch hitter Cheslor Cuthbert drilled a two-run tiebreaker in the ninth inning off Taylor Rogers, triggering a big inning and a more-annoying-than-damaging 12-5 loss for the Twins at Target Field.
“Personally, I didn’t see that coming,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. He was referring to Berrios’ sudden setback but could have been describing Rogers’ outing as well, with Cuthbert’s home run triggering a stadium-emptying seven-run ninth inning.
Cuthbert’s home run was offset, as far as the Twins were concerned, by Bryce Harper’s. The Phillies star clubbed a three-run homer at Progressive Field, helping Philadelphia end the Indians’ five-game winning streak with a 9-4 victory. That enabled the Twins to maintain their four-game AL Central lead with seven games remaining, melt their magic number down to four and shrug off a loss that was a lot closer than the final score.
“Sometimes things just don’t play out the way you want them to, and there’s not a lot to single out” for blame, Baldelli said. “The way the entire game played out, there’s not a lot to point to. We went out there and executed fine and the results just didn’t go our way.”
Berrios knows the feeling, right? In his two previous starts against the Royals, in April and June, he appeared headed to victory — and then stumbled at the finish, leaving the game with Kansas City tied or in front.
“Honestly,” Berrios said, “I wasn’t aware of that.”
Oh. Actually, Berrios hasn’t earned a victory in his past five starts against the Royals, dating to last August, despite a 3.66 ERA in those games.
Ahead 5-2 after five, Berrios responded by giving up five hits in the sixth inning, capped by Ryan O’Hearn’s upper-deck blast to right field that tied the game 5-5. It was the Kansas City first baseman’s second run-scoring extra-base hit of the night; O’Hearn also doubled home a run in the second inning.
“I feel like they hit the ball around not very hard,” Berrios said, until O’Hearn connected. “I got frustrated because I was like, ‘They’re not hitting the ball hard,’ and it was just dropping.”
LaMonte Wade Jr. hit the ball hard. The rookie, who seems to be locked in a late-season battle for a spot on the Twins playoff roster, rocketed a first-pitch fastball from K.C. starter Glenn Sparkman 416 feet into the upper deck in right-center. Two innings later, he drove a pitch to deep center that Brett Phillips failed to catch, and Wade hustled to third base with his first big-league triple. That led to a four-run inning that included an RBI double by Luis Arraez and run-scoring singles by Nelson Cruz and Miguel Sano.
In the ninth, Rogers was ambushed by a Royals offense that has scored the second-fewest runs in the AL. O’Hearn led off with a ground-ball single, and after a sacrifice bunt, Cuthbert hit for Phillips. On a 2-1 count, he reached out for a low slider and yanked it down the line, two rows into the left-field seats just inside the foul pole.
“That’s baseball,” Rogers said, echoing the get-’em-tomorrow theme of the night. “If we’re in a different shift, then the ground ball is an out. Maybe [Cuthbert’s blast] drifts foul, and it’s a different story.”
The Royals piled on from there against Rogers, Trevor Hildenberger and, making his major league debut, rookie Jorge Alcala, putting together a seven-run inning, Kansas City’s largest of the season.