PHILADELPHIA – While trying to win a series Sunday, the Twins also could compare what they have to what they could have had.
Jose Berrios was selected with the 32nd overall pick of the 2012 draft, a draft that included Carlos Correa, Byron Buxton, Corey Seager, Lance McCullers Jr. and others.
The player taken one spot behind Berrios that year was a prep righthander from Florida named Zach Eflin. Eflin was under consideration by the Twins that year as well, but they went with Berrios and have never looked back.
Their paths crossed Sunday at Citizens Bank Park. Berrios entered the game with a career 4.2 WAR and one All-Star Game. Eflin had a 1.8 WAR but was 11-8 last season as he began to turn his talent into success.
And Eflin, on Sunday, was a little better than Berrios, holding the Twins to one run in seven innings as the Phillies held on 2-1 to win the rubber game of their three-game series.
“When you play good teams, you’re going to have to battle throughout,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “That’s what this was. That’s what this whole series was. Our guys gave really good efforts out there and actually, I thought, performed well. Just a hair not well enough tonight, but I was happy with what I saw.”
Berrios did all he could to make Max Kepler’s first career leadoff home run hold up until he ran into Rhys Hoskins with a man on third and two out in the sixth.
Hoskins, who had seen 11 pitches from Berrios during his first two plate appearances, made Berrios throw him nine more the third time up. Throwing fastballs inside then using breaking balls away had worked all day for Berrios, but Hoskins kept fouling pitches off. With the count full, Berrios threw a curveball on the outer half of the plate and Hoskins reached out and lifted it to left-center field.
Eddie Rosario and Byron Buxton met at the wall, with Buxton attempting a high-flying grab, but it cleared the fence for a two-run homer. Although the ball landed near the 374-foot sign, its distance was estimated at 365 feet. Go figure.
“Hoskins, he’s good with that lean-out-front, off-balance flick, something you don’t see a lot,” Kepler said of the Philadelphia cleanup hitter, who went 6-for-10 with three walks, two home runs and seven RBI in the series.
Kepler had put the Twins ahead with his leadoff home run, a 107.7-miles-per-hour shot to right-center. He homered in every game this series, marking the first time he has hit a home run in three consecutive games. Eflin’s sinker made it tough for Twins batters to square up many of his pitches after that.
The Twins had a chance to add on in the fourth inning when Ehire Adrianza singled to left with Marwin Gonzalez on second. Third base coach Tony Diaz waived Gonzalez home. Jason Castro, the on-deck hitter, signaled for Gonzalez to dive to his right.
But McCutchen’s one-hop throw was perfect, and catcher J.T. Realmuto tagged Gonzalez on his shoulder, about 10 inches before he reached the plate.
“Knowing everything that was going on in that game,” Baldelli said, “I found that to be a good send and a chance that we want to take going forward.”
After playing poorly Friday, the Twins responded with a victory Saturday and a close loss Sunday. They will lament their lack of offense in the series finale, but they feel they recovered well after Friday’s flop.
“I think we put together great games, a great series,” Kepler said. “The first one slipped away. We can keep up with that team.”
But good teams win close games on the road, a trait they did not show Sunday.