To kill the bad taste from a mistake-filled Wednesday loss, the Twins relied on a familiar face on the pitcher’s mound Thursday. A couple of them, actually.
Jose Berrios pitched the second complete game of his career, while his teammates faced their most frequent Target Field foe — and foil — and the combination turned into a satisfying 7-2 drubbing of the White Sox.
Eduardo Escobar, Ehire Adrianza and Eddie Rosario all homered off Chicago starter James Shields, who has now started more games — and given up more homers — in Target Field’s nine-year history than any other visiting pitcher. Escobar’s shot staked the Twins to a 2-0 first-inning lead, Adrianza’s home run off the facing of the upper deck in right field made it 3-0 in the second, and Rosario’s blast, his fifth of the homestand, nearly reached the plaza beyond right field and capped a three-run, two-out uprising in the fourth inning to give the Twins their biggest lead in more than a month.
Berrios earned his seventh victory of the season by dominating Chicago for the third time this year, carrying a perfect game into the fifth inning and limiting the Sox to six hits and two runs while striking out 10. It was enough to make him … furious. Absolutely furious.
“I was angry at myself, not at nobody else,” Berrios said after stalking around the mound, snapping the ball in his glove when receiving it from the catcher, and generally scowling at hitters before mowing them down in disgust. “When they scored two runs, I got mad at myself.”
Berrios channeled it well, considering he faced the minimum nine hitters over the final three innings and dispatched them in a ruthlessly efficient 28 pitches. He is the only Twins starter to record outs in the eighth or ninth innings this season, and he has 17 of them now.
So go ahead, poke him with a stick — or two sixth-inning RBI doubles, whatever. Because payback, as Yoan Moncada, Jose Abreu and the White Sox learned, is painful.
“He was upset,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said admiringly of Berrios’ demeanor during that inning. “Moncada got a hit and I think [Berrios] was second-guessing that he probably should have thrown him a breaking ball instead of a fastball. … Abreu has been hunting sliders with men in scoring position, and he got him. That’s what I was seeing.”
Molitor was also seeing a bullpen in repose, feet up and enjoying the sunny afternoon. After a doubleheader Tuesday and a busy bullpen day Wednesday, the manager was particularly happy Berrios could handle all nine innings himself.
“I don’t know if he’s overly conscious of the fact that I’m hoping he goes nine [Thursday]. But he kind of pitched like that, like he was on a mission to try to find a way to complete the game,” Molitor said. “And that’s what you want to see. That’s how you build young people up into guys that eventually emerge on the top of your rotation.”
The term for that is “ace,” a word Molitor is reluctant to bestow too early on a 24-year-old, but he certainly looked the part early on. Not only did the first 14 White Sox batters go hitless, but the first 13 didn’t even get the ball out of the infield. The thought of a no-hitter began to occur to some people in the matinee Target Field crowd — and on the pitcher’s mound, too.
Yes, Berrios said, he was thinking about perfection, because “I’m always thinking no-hitter,” he said. “But I know it’s baseball. They’re going to make adjustments.”
Sure enough, catcher Omar Narvaez, batting only .170 entering the game, ended those thoughts by slugging a two-out double into the gap in left-center in the fifth and igniting Berrios’ temper. He got his revenge, oddly enough, when Jose Rondon followed with a single into the left field corner, because Narvaez slowed around third base then tried to score, a miscalculation Rosario exploited by nailing him with a long throw.
Berrios got a nice ovation when he took the mound for the ninth inning, and again when he finished off the complete game, earning his fourth victory in five starts.
“He’s been on a really good roll here,” Molitor said of his curveball specialist, who relied more on his fastball and changeup Thursday. “You feel good about getting deep and having a chance to win. And you can tell his confidence is developing. He’s putting it together pretty consistently right now.”