CLEVELAND – Long, prodigious home runs have fueled the Twins over the past couple of seasons. But even the dinkiest homers have been brutal to Jose Berrios in 2020.
The Twins righthander delivered another grueling performance Wednesday, the talent and determination evident, but the results only partly satisfying, because of perhaps the shortest home run possible in Progressive Field. Even less satisfying by the end, actually, considering Sergio Romo gave up a trio of late runs and the Twins lost to Cleveland for the second night in a row, 6-3.
Minnesota’s AL Central lead evaporated to a half-game, after Cleveland rallied from a 2-0 deficit against Berrios and knocked Romo around during a sloppy eighth inning to end the Twins’ streak of four consecutive series victories.
“We have to deal with whatever comes our way,” manager Rocco Baldelli said with a sigh. “Sometimes a home run doesn’t go out by very much.”
Still counts, though. Berrios allowed seven hits and four walks while recording 17 outs, a problematic ratio that he might have overcome regardless, if not for another recurring theme: The gut-punch home run. Jose Ramirez did the honors this time, following a Delino DeShields single and a Cesar Hernandez walk in the third inning with a high fly ball that scraped the padding at the base of the foul pole, a “blast” of only 352 feet. So short, in fact, that umpires double-checked on video if it actually reached the pole.
It inflicted the pain of a third-deck moonshot, though, which is a how Berrios’ season has gone. The homer was the fifth the All-Star righthander has allowed this season, and the damage has been immense: Three of them have come with two runners on base, and four of the five have either broken a tie or erased a Twins lead.
“I can’t explain that. That’s life, and that’s part of baseball,” Berrios said. “The only thing I can control is, next time don’t throw it over the plate and let them hit a homer.”
It was a shame for the Twins, too, considering all that Max Kepler accomplished in a cameo appearance. The Twins right fielder crushed Mike Clevinger’s third pitch of the game, a fastball over the heart of the plate, 414 feet into the right-field stands, Kepler’s 99th career home run and 12th at Progressive Field. It was his ninth career leadoff home run, and third in Cleveland — the same number he has hit at Target Field.
In the bottom of the inning, Kepler saved at least one run by making an athletic, running catch of a two-out Franmil Reyes fly ball with two runners on base, just before it hit the right-field wall.
But Kepler fouled a pitch off his right foot while batting in the top of the second, and was removed. X-rays showed nothing broken, just bruised, and Kepler is listed as day to day.
The Twins tied the score in the seventh on a Jake Cave bloop single off Oliver Perez that drove in Ehire Adrianza. But Cleveland’s bullpen didn’t allow another baserunner — and Minnesota’s did.
Carlos Santana grounded a single off Luis Arraez’s glove in the eighth, and Romo walked Reyes. Tyler Naquin then drilled a line drive just inside the foul line in the left-field corner, breaking the tie, and Cleveland added two runs from there.
“He had a difficult time from the very beginning gripping the ball. … He was having trouble getting a feel for what he was doing,” Baldelli said of Romo. “That being said, he’s the guy that we’re going to call on in that situation many, many times, and we’re going to continue to do that. He’s been incredible for us.”