It was a fairly quiet night at Target Field — the calm before the storm, perhaps? — as the Minnesota Twins hung a pair of two-spots up on the way to a 4-0 win in the series opener against the Chicago White Sox.
It took the Twins 11 games to finally face a divisional foe, and they took care of business in advance of a winter storm that’s possibly going to put the rest of the weekend in jeopardy. Neither offense was terribly impressive, but Jose Berrios was the story, as he twirled his second three-hitter in the span of three starts to open the season.
Here’s what we saw from our vantage point:
Berrios is a bad, bad man
There are just so many ways to look at it that help show how dominating Berrios was. Chicago batters 1-4 were a combined 0-for-15 with eight strikeouts. The White Sox only got three hits on the night — all singles. But I think my favorite one is this: when Jose Abreu reached on an error with two outs in the ninth, he immediately took second base on defensive indifference.
He was the first and only White Sox player to reach second safely on the night.
ESPN had Berrios with 18 swinging strikes on 99 pitches as he fanned a career-high-tying 11 batters in seven innings of work. Ryan Pressly and Gabriel Moya each followed with a strikeout in their perfect innings of work, and it was pretty much how a manager draws it up.
Brooks Baseball had Berrios as high as 95.7 mph on his two-seamer and 95.9 on his four, and said that 12 of his 18 swinging strikes came on the curve. In fact, more than half the swings (23) on his curve results in misses. That’s a hell of a performance for anyone, let alone a 23-year-old kid.
He’s going to be a thrill to watch in his homeland of Puerto Rico next time out.
Mauer’s 2,000th hit was a special moment, but the start he’s on is unbelievable
He’s set a career-high by reaching in each of his first 10 games of the season, and for the sixth game in a row, Mauer reached base multiple times to run his season line to an astonishing .412/.545/.529.
Mauer’s first hit came back on April 5, 2004 against Indians reliever Rafael Betancourt. This basically means that Mauer’s career is perfectly encapsulated between the last two playoff qualifying Minnesota Timberwolves teams.
Man, that’s some context.
2004 vs 2018 pic.twitter.com/DDI8ZyFPFi
— Parker Hageman (@ParkerHageman) April 13, 2018
Even on a night they don’t hit much, the Twins can put together chances to score
Seven hits in nine innings is no great shakes, but the Twins also walked six times and had chances to score as early as the first. Miguel Sano hit a booming double to right-center, but was doubled off in a strange play to end the inning — more on that in a bit — as Lucas Giolito was able to wriggle out of damage early.
Thirteen baserunners most nights will be enough to win plenty of games, and this comes with the 3-4-5 hitters batting .250 or worse. There are warmer days to come; we promise.
Sano was doubled off second base to end the first inning, but it wasn’t entirely a bad play
So Mauer walked in front of Sano with one out in the first, and picked up third on the double. When Eddie Rosario stung a ball to Abreu, the first baseman not only retired the batter, but threw to second to catch a wayward Sano off the bag. That play drew the ire of plenty of armchair quarterbacks online, but hear me out — it wasn’t that bad of a play.
Sano’s read at second base to advance is any ball hit to his left. When that happened, he took one too many steps toward third before realizing that with one out, Mauer’s read is to freeze on any grounder hit back to the pitcher or crisply to either corner infielder. As a result, Sano was trying to make an aggressive play and was caught in no-man’s land, and was thrown out to end the inning. His read of the play was correct; his read of the situation was not. It was the aggressive mistake of a young player, but it was a finer points thing. He almost certainly won’t do it again.
Byron Buxton showed he can impact a game a lot more than just in the batter’s box
The bat still really isn’t going for Buxton, but he scored what wound up being the only run the Twins needed all night after singling to open things up in the third. The ball was by no means stung — 69.9 mph exit velocity — but was perfectly placed (91 percent hit probability) beyond short but in front of the left fielder.
Then Buxton went to work.
He stole his 27th base in a row with Jason Castro up — though a replay review was needed to prove that Tim Anderson had missed the tag — took third on a fly ball and came across to score with the infield in when Anderson threw home but could not get him. A good throw would have gotten Buxton, who basically bolted for the plate at the moment of contact, which resulted in an awkward throw from Anderson from a mechanics standpoint. The bounce in front of the plate couldn’t be handled by catcher Omar Narvaez, and the Twins were on the board.
Between sequences like this and spotless defense in center, Buxton has still provided value to the Twins even while his bat has been slow to start.
Abreu had one of the more chuckle-worthy bloopers we’ve seen so far this season
Don’t say anything, just watch:
Her: Come over
You: Can’t; too much homework
Her: My parents are gone
— Brandon Warne (@Brandon_Warne) April 13, 2018
It’s still not clear who will start for the Twins on Friday — if there even is a game
It sounds like the Twins hope to have a decision on what to do about the game early Friday afternoon, and it seems likely they’ll be more interested in banging it with the White Sox a regular visitor to Target Field this year — including in early June for the next time — as that’s an easier make-up date as opposed to someone like the Seattle Mariners.
If the game happens, don’t be surprised if the Twins send out Gabriel Moya and bring up Adalberto Mejia. Mejia only pitched two innings in his season-opening start for Rochester earlier this week before he was replaced by Fernando Romero, and it’s possible the Twins want to wait out a decision on Phil Hughes for as long as possible.