Photo credit: Brad Rempel, USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Twins needed a spark and a stopper after an ugly, self-inflicted defeat to the Chicago White Sox on Thursday. Eduardo Escobar was their spark, taking Chicago starter James Shields deep in the first inning after Eddie Rosario’s double. Jose Berrios was the plug, throwing his second complete-game of the season, giving up only two hits and six runs while throwing 78 of his 109 pitches for strikes in a 7-2 win that split the series 2-2.

“I don’t know if I can aptly describe how much of a pick me up it is for your bullpen when you can get a nine-inning performance,” said manager Paul Molitor. “Little bit lackluster series overall, but we ended up finding a way to split it. You could tell early on he was really locating his pitches well. They bunched some hits together in the middle, which plated a couple of runs.”

The White Sox broke through in the sixth inning. Charlie Tilson led off with a single, Yoan Moncada drove him in and Jose Abreu’s double scored another run to make it 4-2. But that’s all Chicago could muster against Berrios.

“I was angry at myself,” said Berrios. “That sixth inning, when they scored two runs, I got mad at myself.”

Molitor said he entered the day hoping he could give the relief corps a rest.

“I don’t know if he’s overly conscious of the fact that I’m hoping he goes nine today,” said Molitor. “But he kind of pitched like that, like he was on a mission to try to find a way to complete the game if he could. 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.”

Berrios struck out 10 hitters and did not allow a walk. There’s a feeling in the clubhouse that when he’s on the mound, everyone else can relax and do their role.

“Everybody’s comfortable. The offense is comfortable. The defense is comfortable,” said Rosario. “When you see that, you have a good game.”

“Everyone knows when he’s pitching, he’s been on a really good roll here — you feel good about getting deep and having a chance to win, and all those things,” said Molitor. “And you can tell his confidence is developing. He’s had a few hiccups along the way. Talk about his youth early in the year and getting too far out there too soon on a guy, but he’s putting it together pretty consistently right now.”

Berrios threw a complete-game shutout in his first outing of the year, a 7-0 win in Baltimore on April 1. But in late April and early May he struggled when his curveball flattened out, going six innings in only one of four starts, but has pitched better since mid-May.

“We’ve got a long season,” said Berrios. “I’m going to pitch 25-30 starts per year so you have a chance to make adjustments between starts. What happened before? I don’t care.”

And it helps to get a little run support. Escobar got things going with his first-inning homer, and Rosario — who is hitting .307/.344/.550 with 13 homers this season — had a three-run homer in the fourth. Escobar is hitting .282/.338/.549 and leads the league with 24 doubles.

“Escobar’s offense? It’s awesome. It’s awesome. I like it. I like it,” said Rosario. “It takes you sometimes, when I only have a walk or a base hit, you need the other guy hitting. He does a good job this year, hitting well, hitting hard.”

“I love Eddie Rosario, man,” said Escobar, beaming. “Every time he comes to home plate, he’s going to swing.”

The injury-depleted lineup needed some offense, and the weary bullpen needed a break. They got both on Thursday, and the Twins were able to salvage a series while stifling any negative momentum that was created by an ugly loss on Wednesday.  

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