ARLINGTON, TEXAS – It sure looks as if Jose Berrios has hit a wall.
The Twins righthander posted his fifth consecutive short start Saturday, leaving the Twins' 7-4 loss to the Rangers after only four innings, during which he gave up three of the Rangers' four home runs. It continues a troubling trend during which Berrios now has a 6.65 ERA over his past five outings. The three home runs, to Nomar Mazara, Ronald Guzman and Adrian Beltre, tie a season high set July 4 at Milwaukee.
Since Aug. 4, Berrios hasn't pitched more than five innings. That also was the last time he threw over 100 pitches, 106 to be exact.
"I obviously want to finish like I started," Berrios said. "As a competitor, nobody wants to finish a season the way my last few games have been. Just keep looking forward and get ready for the next game."
The Twins led 2-0 in the second — one of the runs coming on a 443-foot homer to right by Jake Cave — when the Rangers struck for four runs. Mazara led off the inning with a homer to center. After walking Jurickson Profar and Joey Gallo, catcher Mitch Garver went to the mound for a chat. The next pitch was a belt-high fastball to Guzman, who parked it in the seats in right for a three-run homer and a 4-2 lead.
Berrios gave up a homer to Beltre in the fourth — on a curveball that did nothing but wait to get hit — that made it 5-2.
Berrios has thrown 167⅔ innings this season, short of the career-high 191⅔ he threw last season between the Twins, Class AAA Rochester and during the World Baseball Classic. Granted, game-time temperature was 92 degrees and he's coming off an outing Sunday during which he was ill.
But his past two starts, combined with three before that — he did give up one run over five rain-shortened innings against the White Sox on Aug. 21 — is not a good stretch for someone who pitched in the All-Star Game this season.
The Twins scored runs in the fifth and the eighth but got no closer. Joe Mauer and Cave each had two hits for the Twins.
The spotlight was on the starting pitcher the day he pitched. A few years ago, he would pick the music being played in the clubhouse before the game.
Zack Littell claims the persona of the starting pitcher and the attention he commands will not change as the wave of "openers" appears be headed closer — at least as far as the Twins are concerned.
"At [Class AAA Rochester], it was very like, 'You're the starter. You're still the guy,' " Littell said Saturday. "No offense to any of the guys who are going to open, but no one is going to look back and be like, 'Wow, he carried the team to the win right there.' The starter is going to go six, seven innings. And he is going to do the bulk of the work. I don't think that changes at all."
He will try to show that Sunday. Lefthander Gabriel Moya will start Sunday and pitch up to two innings before Littell replaces him and, the Twins hope, gets them into the final innings.
The Rays have had success with the practice, as their first-inning ERA of 3.20 is third best and well under the league average of 4.65. It has helped their starters, as the group is up to sixth in baseball with a 3.67 ERA.
• Left fielder Eddie Rosario received treatment on his sore right quad and remains out indefinitely.
• Class AAA Rochester announced that reliever John Curtiss will sing the national anthem before Sunday's game.