The Twins don’t need Jose Berrios to be dominant every start. They don’t expect a 23-year-old to be immune to variance, and they don’t want him to feel the pressure to be perfect every five days.
They just wish his bad days weren’t quite so gruesome.
Berrios lasted only three innings Sunday, and all three were messy, propelling Cincinnati to an 8-2 victory and the Reds’ first-ever series victory in Minnesota. The Puerto Rican righthander walked at least one batter per inning, gave up a double in each, and worst of all, surrendered one, one and two runs before being lifted just three innings in.
Berrios has now given up a run in seven consecutive innings, or roughly double the damage that his first four opponents of the season had managed, combined.
“We understand. He’s a young guy. He’s going to have starts where it’s not there,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said of his Jekyll-and-Hyde righthander. “Today was one of those days where he had a tough time.”
Those days remain puzzlingly frequent. In six games this season, Berrios is the only Twins starter to hold the opposition to zeroes three times — but he is also the only starter to fail to complete five innings three times. His ERA in starts against the Orioles, White Sox and Indians is 0.00 in 23 innings. Against the Mariners, Yankees and now Reds? 10.80.
“Physically and mentally, I’m in a good place. I’m perfect,” he said. “I feel fine. It just didn’t work out for me out there today.”
Molitor seems so accustomed to Berrios’ off days by now, the manager doesn’t wait around to see if the curveball specialist can straighten himself out and preserve the bullpen. Berrios threw only 60 pitches Sunday, but after watching eight batters reach base, Molitor told Berrios that his services were no longer needed.
“I understood. I respect that,” Berrios said. “The inning, the situation that the game was in, [and] I wasn’t commanding my pitches — I understand the decision.”
He didn’t get much help in this one, though, as Cincinnati won a series for the first time this season. The Twins lineup produced only eight hits and two runs, the bullpen allowed the Reds to pile on four more runs, and the defense couldn’t convert double-play balls into double plays. Six times in the first six innings, the Twins got a forced out at second base but failed to relay the ball to first base in time for a second out, extending one inning after the next. The Reds wound up scoring in four of those innings.
“We had a couple of chances there, but exchanges weren’t particularly clean,” Molitor said. “They weren’t tailormade automatics. We needed a little execution there, but they weren’t particularly clean.”
Cincinnati, which won a three-game series in an AL ballpark for the first time since 2013 but still owns the worst record in the majors, is experiencing the same inconsistency with rookie righthander Tyler Mahle — who happened to be particularly sharp Sunday. Mahle, also 23, held the Cubs to one hit in six innings in his 2018 debut, but only one of his four starts since had been a quality start. But he got another vs. the Twins, giving up only four hits and two walks over 6⅓ innings.
The Twins’ lone breakthrough against him came in the sixth inning, when Jason Castro doubled and Joe Mauer grounded a ball up the middle, scoring Castro from second. The hit ended Mauer’s streak of 11 consecutive games without an RBI, dating to April 12, the third-longest such drought of his career.
But the Twins couldn’t add to their run total until the ninth, when Castro doubled home Logan Morrison. They went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position, bringing their total in the series to 6-for-34 (.161).