The Minnesota Twins stuck to a strange script on Sunday, as they salvaged the final game of a three-game set against the Texas Rangers with a 2-0 win to close out the homestand.
The Twins have made a strange habit of playing down to their competition of late, and it has shown as the team has lost two of three to Detroit, Texas and Chicago while taking two of three from Cleveland and Boston.
Jose Berrios was absolutely brilliant on Sunday, as he outdueled former teammate Bartolo Colon. Each tossed seven innings, with Berrios fanning a career-high 12 batters while scattering three hits.
The Twins have Monday off, then will hit the road for a three-team, two-city road trip to face the Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers before returning home to face the Baltimore Orioles.
Here’s what we saw from our vantage point
Berrios pitched like a man possessed
Berrios set a career high with 12 strikeouts, surpassing the previous total of 11 which he had done three times — including twice this season. Sunday’s total was the most by a Twins pitcher since Francisco Liriano fanned 15 batters on July 13, 2012, and Berrios did so all while walking just two batters.
Berrios didn’t have the greatest pitch economy to start the afternoon, but really ramped it up as he managed to finish seven innings with 107 pitches — including 70 for strikes. After totaling 77 pitches in his first four innings, Berrios threw just 30 the rest of the way, finishing off the fifth, sixth and seventh innings with totals of 10, 13 and seven in order.
The seventh was perhaps the most impressive, as he threw seven pitches — all strikes — to close out his afternoon.
As one might expect, 12 strikeouts didn’t come without a price — but in a good way. Berrios had an excellent 18 swinging strikes on the day. Half came on his curveball (20.5 percent whiff rate), with three apiece coming on the two-seam fastball (11.1 percent), four-seamer (11.1 percent) and changeup (33.3 percent).
As a general reminder, 10 percent is the usual average, with fastballs tending to skew under and offspeed/breaking stuff skewing higher. If these numbers make your eyeballs pop out of your head, they should.
Berrios was as high as 96.2 mph with his two-seam fastball and 95.7 with his four-seamer, and he threw first-pitch strikes to 19 of the 25 batters he faced. It’s hard to be much more dominant than this.
You still can’t help but marvel at what Colon is doing
He’s 45 and still going out and throwing seven innings of two-run ball. Granted, the Twins offense has been scuffling of late, but he’s had some stretches this year where he’s been absolutely incredible, including snuffing out the Astros offense earlier in the year in a no-hit bid.
Colon’s ERA is still 4.72 for the season, but that he’s pitching even somewhat effectively at 45 with a fastball — which he throws about 90 percent of the time — in the mid-80s is quite a feat.
Fernando Rodney is on an incredible run…
He struck out the side for the save — his 17th of the season — and in the process lowered his ERA to 2.73 for the season. He’s allowed two earned runs all month — both came against the Angels on June 10 — and since April 26 in New York, he hasn’t blown a save. In fact, he’s only pitched in one Twins loss in that stretch, and that was back on May 1.
He entered May with a 5.87 ERA, and may enter July with one half that. That’s kind of bananas.
…Trevor Hildenberger’s stretch is nothing to scoff at, either
Hildenberger’s ERA is down to 2.11, as it’s been well over a month since he’s been scored upon. The last earned run Hildenberger allowed came on a home run against the Milwaukee Brewers back on May 18, and in the process, he’s lowered his ERA nearly two runs from the 3.80 mark he ended that day with.
With Ryan Pressly and Addison Reed working at getting back on the eighth-inning horse, Hildenberger’s emergence has come at a terrific time for the Twins. All three outs he recorded on Sunday came on the ground, too, so his groundball rate is on the rise. Sunday’s performance got it back up to 50 percent, which is still a fair amount under his mark of 58.8 percent last year, but on the right track.
Eddie Rosario had another great game….but!
Rosario added another two hits to his Washington, D.C. resume, but it was the play below in the fourth inning that was a bit troublesome. The Twins have been woeful at making outs on the bases, and it happened again as Rosario wandered off first base and was thrown out by Rangers catcher Isiah Kiner-Falefa.
True to form, Eduardo Escobar followed with his daily double, and the Twins missed out on one of a precious few scoring chances on the day. Fortunately the pitching staff bailed them out, but this kind of stuff is under a microscope when the team isn’t hitting well, too.
The offense did just enough to win
Robbie Grossman had his hand in both runs scored on the day, as he opened the fifth with a booming double to right-center against Colon and came across to score when Bobby Wilson hit a two-out jam-shot into left. Grossman then drove home Rosario an inning later to cap the scoring.
The Twins held the Rangers to just five baserunners on the day, but they weren’t much more effective themselves even with eight hits and a walk, scoring just two runs on the whole. Both runs scored with two outs, however. A slumping offense will take whatever it can get, right?
The Twins optioned Ryan LaMarre to Triple-A Rochester after the game, leading to some speculation about who might come up to fill his spot. The natural preference would be to have Byron Buxton join the team in Chicago following his rehab stint, but if he’s not ready, bringing up Jake Cave makes some sense as well.
LaMarre is very popular in the clubhouse, but has seen his numbers level out a bit as he’s hitting just .263/.321/.313 on the season. With the Twins facing three righties in the upcoming White Sox series — Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito and James Shields — it makes sense to bring up the left-handed Cave for a look, as he’s hitting .291/.348/.461 in 46 games since May 1 — including MLB and Triple-A numbers combined.
For what it’s worth, Cave has held his own against left-handed pitching this season, slashing a combined .291/.385/.436 against southpaws between both levels this year.
- The win pushed the Twins to 20-20 at Target Field this season, while Texas fell to 19-21 on the road. The Rangers are markedly worse (15-24) at home this year.
- The Twins are two games under .500 (269-271) against the Rangers in the all-time series, per the game notes.
- Escobar added his 33rd double of the season, snapping an 0-for-12 skid while growing closer to Chuck Knoblauch’s club record of 37 doubles before the All-Star break. Escobar leads MLB in doubles.
- The Twins are slated to face three righties in the upcoming White Sox series (see above), and it’s unclear exactly how they’ll line up their rotation. Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson are locks to start the first two games, but then the Twins are likely to move Jake Odorizzi up from Friday’s start to pitch on Thursday, with Berrios pitching on normal rest Friday and Saturday’s start being open for debate. Aaron Slegers is more or less lined up to make that start, but Adalberto Mejia might make the most sense. The Cubs have feasted on right-handed pitching this season, and the left-handed Mejia — who made 21 starts for the Twins last year — has really come on strong lately with a 2.29 ERA over his last seven starts for Triple-A Rochester.