SEATTLE – On his 24th birthday, Jose Berrios gave the Twins quite a gift. Too bad they couldn’t return the favor.
The Twins righthander celebrated not with cake or ice cream, but with seven strong innings vs. the Mariners, giving up only a Kyle Seager solo home run before tiring in the eighth. But his slump-ridden teammates generated even less offense against Seattle righthander Mike Leake, and the Twins lost their fourth consecutive game, 3-1 at Safeco Field.
“We’re just not supporting the pitching that we’re getting,” manager Paul Molitor said after the Twins were swept out of Seattle for the first time since 2012. “The reality is, we played 30 innings here and got, what, 16 hits? Just not a lot of opportunities, and when we get them, we can’t seem to get a hit.”
The Twins turned those paltry 16 hits into five runs this weekend, continuing an offensive fizzle that’s now entering its third week. Since facing Shohei Ohtani on May 13, the Twins have scored fewer than four runs eight times (averaging 2.77 a game), they have reached double digits in hits only once, and they are batting a collective .207.
It’s the Mariners who are missing their offensive engines, like Robinson Cano, Dee Gordon and on Sunday, Jean Segura, yet it’s the Twins who go down in order. The bottom four hitters in their lineup went a combined 0-for-12 on Sunday while the top two went 0-for-8, meaning that three times during the game, the Twins made at least six consecutive outs.
They remain positive anyway, somehow.
“It’s weird to say this, but we swung the bat really well today,” insisted Brian Dozier, who was 2-for-12 in the series. “I know we only put up four hits, but [there were] a lot of line outs, a lot of people who squared the ball up. A lot. Hit it right at ’em.”
The pitcher they were, um, punishing was Leake, who gave up an early run when Eddie Rosario scored from first base on an Eduardo Escobar double, reaching under Chris Herrmann’s tag to just beat the throw home. Leake didn’t have much to work with, either, since Berrios allowed only one run — a changeup in the middle of the plate that Seager crushed in the fifth inning — until the eighth.
Mitch Haniger ended Berrios’ day by taking a 3-2 curveball in the dirt, the only walk he allowed. But that stray baserunner turned into the game-changer when Seager cracked a two-out single off Zach Duke and Ryan Healy followed with a double to left-center off Addison Reed that Rosario, playing relatively shallow in hopes of cutting off a run at the plate, couldn’t reach. It rolled to the wall, allowing two runs to score and tagging Berrios with a not-so-happy-birthday loss.
“That’s a pretty good matchup for us. I don’t think [Reed] intended to leave the fastball up there,” Molitor said.
Berrios allowed eight hits during the sunny Seattle afternoon, but seven were singles and only once, aside from Seager’s homer, did any Mariner visit second or third base against him.
“He didn’t break [his curveball] out hardly at the first time through the lineup, but he started [using it], and a lot of those righties were having trouble laying off it,” Molitor said. “He was getting chases out of the zone. It was a good solid mix today, gave us every opportunity to win.”
But the hitters couldn’t capitalize, dropping the Twins nine games behind Seattle in what might not be a wild-card race much longer, and worrying their manager. “The nature of the game, if you let it get the best of you, is that it becomes more mental, and frustration sets in,” Molitor said. “If you’re not getting hits, it gets magnified. All you’ve got is your next at-bat.”