The weather may have been cold, but the radar guns were popping as Jose Berrios and Reynaldo Lopez tangled in the first game of a split doubleheader at Target Field on Friday afternoon.
Both guys touched the mid- to upper-90s, and for the most part kept the other team’s offense in check as the Twins grabbed a 2-1 win in a game played in a brisk two hours, 45 minutes.
Berrios picked up his 200th strikeout of the season when he fanned former Twins farmhand Daniel Palka in the sixth inning. He’s the first Twins pitcher to reach that mark since Francisco Liriano fanned 201 batters in 2011, and it was the 21st 200-strikeout season in club history.
Those 21 seasons came from eight different pitchers.
The last right-handed starter to fan 200 batters in a Twins uniform? None other than Bert Blyleven in 1986.
“It means a lot, obviously,” Berrios said of reaching the plateau. “That was one of my goals before the season started. That’s when I wrote it down and I accomplished it and I’m thankful to God for that.”
The teams combined for just nine hits and three runs, and each of the runs scored came in an unconventional manner.
“Lopez is a talented kid,” manager Paul Molitor said of the White Sox righty. “We saw him hit 97-98 mph when he needed a little bit extra. He’s got a nice changeup and breaking ball. It was a learning year for him. We talk about the White Sox and some of the young pitching they have to look forward to, he’s a young pitcher on the rise.”
Molitor was obviously complimentary of his young righty, too.
“Nice finish,” Molitor said of Berrios’ first full MLB season. “We talked about it pregame. He’s had an overall good year. There have been some times where I think he’s been frustrated. We saw a little bit of that — more so in the second half than the first — but he kept grinding, and I think he was motivated today. I know he wanted to win.
“But I know he had those 200 strikeouts in mind. Striking out the side in the first was a good way to put a dent in getting to that milestone. I even think he had another inning left in him, but I didn’t see any real reason to push that. So we turned it over.”
Lopez’s strong showing — despite five walks — wasn’t lost on Berrios, either.
“He’s a young pitcher like me with a strong future, bright future as well,” Berrios said. “He did throw a good game today.”
The Twins broke through in the first inning, as Joe Mauer reached on an infield single to get things underway after Berrios struck out the side in the top half. After Jorge Polanco fouled out behind the plate, Jake Cave dropped a double into right field to get Mauer to third. Robbie Grossman followed with a walk, and Tyler Austin’s check-swing tapper to second base plated Mauer to give the Twins an early 1-0 lead.
The White Sox evened things up in the third inning. Welington Castillo opened the inning with a single to right, but was forced at second base on a grounder to third that second baseman Gregorio Petit dropped on the transfer, allowing Tim Anderson to reach. One out later, Yolmer Sanchez singled to right field to move Anderson to third, and he came around to score when Petit’s throw on a Leury Garcia grounder wasn’t dug out at first by Austin.
In the bottom of the sixth, Cave, Grossman and Austin opened the frame with consecutive walks to load the bases. After Max Kepler lifted a lazy pop to second base, Willians Astudillo hit a fly ball to short center. Adam Engel made the play, but his throw skipped up off the back of the mound, going up high into the air before settling into Castillo’s glove long after Cave crossed the plate to give the Twins a 2-1 lead.
After Berrios completed his six innings, he turned it over to the red-hot Taylor Rogers, who got by with a little help from his friends later in the game.
Rogers got Sanchez to pop to Austin at first and Garcia to line to Jorge Polanco at short. But with two outs, Avisail Garcia — mired in a tough season at the plate and in general health-wise — roped a ball off the limestone in right field.
And whether it was the knee issues that had been bothering Garcia all season long — he left the game the next half inning with a recurrence of soreness — or that he was just watching the ball to see where it went, he was held to a single when Kepler played the carom fairly well and got the ball in quickly.
Rogers rebounded by striking out Palka on just three pitches to finish the inning.
With Trevor May warming, Rogers went back out for the ninth and got Matt Davidson to hit a sizzling liner to Ehire Adrianza before Molitor went to the righty.
This wound up being a smart move, as White Sox manager Rick Renteria pinch-hit Kevan Smith for Omar Narvaez, allowing Molitor to bring in May for the righty-righty matchup.
Smith, a .444./481/.638 hitter against lefties this season, came in hitting just .231/.291/.256 against righties, and May struck him out on a nasty 3-2 curve that darted out of the strike zone at the last second.
Narvaez, on the other hand, was lifted with a line of just .163/.345/.233 against lefties against .291/.366/.465 against righties.
May followed it up with a strikeout of Castillo for his second big-league save.
- Rogers extended his scoreless-innings streak to an MLB-high 25 innings with 1.1 innings of relief.
- Mauer (2-for-4) posted his 40th multi-hit game of the season.
- The Twins moved to 9-7 against the White Sox this year, including 3-4 at Target Field.
- The Twins are 39-34 against AL Central foes this season, and 46-32 at Target Field overall.
- The nightcap will start at 7:10 p.m. Righty Lucas Giolito will take the mound for Chicago, opposed by righty Chase De Jong for the Twins.