Or perhaps more specifically, what his level of confidence was when he hands the righty the ball every fifth day.
“I’m confident in him, that’s for sure,” Baldelli said. “He gives us all a reason to be. He’s been fantastic so far this year. Getting a chance to spend all the time with him this offseason and getting a chance to know him kinda gave me a feel for him, but he’s been all of that and more. He’s a pleasure to watch.”
He wasn’t finished.
“You want to watch one start at a time and let a young player progress and not put too much of a burden or pressure on him. Of course, he’s been fantastic and you certainly believe in the person as well. He gives you all the hope and expectations looking forward. We’re still going to let him pitch and watch him throw one game at a time and see what happens. I looked forward to it whenever I get a chance to see him throw.”
Berrios showed exactly what Baldelli mentioned in Saturday’s start — a 6-4 win for the Twins over the Detroit Tigers to cap a two-game sweep ahead of Jackie Robinson Day.
The Twins handed Berrios a 2-0 lead in the first inning; he promptly handed it back with a booming two-run homer to the bullpen in left-center. But after that, Berrios found his groove, retiring the next 12 batters until Christin Stewart was hit by a pitch in the top of the sixth.
Still, Berrios nearly completed seven innings, fanned seven batters and allowed basically nothing outside of the Gordon Beckham homer.
In short, he overcame the cold weather and struggles with his breaking ball early to pitch a very Berrios-like outing.
“The beginning of the game was a little longer, but he really did settle in,” Baldelli said. “He found his breaking ball and was able to pitch with it a little bit. I thought he did a nice job. He pitched us deep into the game; he gave us a chance to win. He did everything we could ask for.”
Here’s what I saw:
Story of the game
For the Twins, the real turning point — as seen by the chart above — was the laser home run hit by C.J. Cron. It gave the Twins a 5-2 lead just an inning after Berrios had given back a 2-0 advantage, and ultimately provided the game-winning runs, though an Eddie Rosario homer in the seventh provided some much-needed distance between the teams — especially considering how the ninth inning played out.
Byron Buxton was absolutely terrific in this one, making an incredible catch off a Stewart drive to deep center as well as going 2 for 4 with a single and a double.
In addition to Berrios having a strong afternoon, every Twins starter except for Jonathan Schoop had at least one hit as the team pounded out 14 hits with a pair of walks as well.
It’s Buxton’s world — we’re all just living in it
Maybe we should just start with the catch:
With his two hits, Buxton is now up to a .324/.378/.559 slash line, and has clearly refined his approach at the plate in a way that has allowed him not only to poke a team-leading six doubles, but also to stay within the strike zone better than ever before.
So what was better for the team on this day — the catch or the double? Buxton said it was the catch, and it wasn’t particularly close.
“Catch because the catch changed the momentum,” he said. “You could tell it kind of took it out of them a little bit and we came in that next inning and got the bats going.”
Baldelli was also effusive in his praise for Buxton, not only at the plate but of course, in the field.
“That’s what he does,” Baldelli said of the defensive play. “The plays near the wall, too. I know he makes so many of them and also hits the wall too on occasion. But those kinds of plays, those plays lead to runs. Those are the kinds of plays that do change the game as well. We talk about him being a game-changer — I mention it all the time — and this is just another example. He’s also swinging the bat great too. Even some of his outs are well-struck and the kids of passes you’re looking for.”
The Twins offense was strong, but tailed off late
At one point in the fourth inning, the Twins had combined for 11 hits while making just a total of 11 outs. They only had three hits the rest of the way, but one of them happened to be Rosario sneaking a fly ball into the flower pots in right-center.
Also, as was noted at the time, Cron hit a homer that could have had laundry hung on it.
According to StatCast, that was the lowest apex of a home run from a Twins player all season long and the lowest at Target Field since StatCast’s inception in 2015. Not too surprising upon watching the video footage, eh?
Berrios was solid
The young righty admitted he let things get to him a little early, especially due to the temperature and the fact that he was unable to get a good feel for his breaking ball out of the gate.
“(In the) first two innings, early in the game, I was going too fast with my glove hand,” Berrios said. “And then when the two-run homer [happened], I said, ‘We have to try to hold the game right here and try to help the team to make runs.’
“That’s what they do during the game. After the second inning, I did my adjustments working my glove hand to be longer so that I can stay longer to home plate, and that’s why I threw better for the later innings.”
The cooler weather kept Berrios from lighting up the radar gun — he averaged 92.1 mph and maxed out at 93.8 on his four-seam fastball — but the afternoon still resulted in a terrific 14 swinging strikes on 98 pitches. Nine came off his four-seam fastball, three came from the curve and then there were one apiece on his two-seamer and changeup.
And that kind of hearkens back to the things Baldelli said about Berrios finding his footing as the start went along, as well as things we know about ace pitchers needing to work within their repertoires even on days when their best pitches are faltering.
With the curveball not as sharp as Berrios might have liked, he was still able to dominate the Tigers with a fastball that was far from his peak velocity.
If he isn’t an ace yet, Berrios is right on that path.
Zimmermann wasn’t fooling anyone
Part of the Twins having 11 hits while having made 11 outs was that Zimmermann was, simply put, not particularly good on the afternoon. He sat in the low-90s with his fastball, but the average exit velocity on his four-seamer, when put into play, was 100.2 mph.
That’s just not going to get the job done.
The veteran righty induced just two swinging strikes on 54 pitches, and saw each of his three most-thrown pitches — four-seamer, curve and slider — allow batted balls of 105 mph or higher.
He was absolutely tattooed.
The Twins executed poorly on 0-2 pitches all game
It was a really minimal point in the game, but when both Tigers were hit by pitches on the afternoon — Dustin Peterson and Stewart — both came on 0-2 pitches. So too did the home run from Beckham on a curveball that hung up just a little bit from Berrios.
“On the Beckham home run, we threw him three curveballs in a row,” catcher Mitch Garver said. “That last one didn’t get off the plate. It was a good pitch for (Beckham) to hit. (As a result, we) started throwing a few more changeups.”
Twins relievers really struggled to execute
Berrios left in the seventh inning with two outs, giving way to Trevor May, who got JaCoby Jones to strike out swinging on three pitches — all four-seam fastballs. But when May came back out for the eighth, he went single, walk and double to allow a run and put runners on the corners with nobody out and John Hicks — who fanned five times on the day — up as the potential tying run in a 6-3 game.
Rogers fanned Hicks — his fourth strikeout to that point — but allowed an infield single to Grayson Greiner, hit Peterson with an 0-2 pitch and then rebounded to get Ronny Rodriguez to foul out to first and Beckham to strike out swinging.
In the ninth, Blake Parker also struggled to execute as his location was sort of all over the place. Garver wasn’t too worried about Parker, however, as he felt the fastball was effective and the offense was just hanging tough against him.
“It was all there,” Garver said of Parker’s repertoire. “They were just constantly fouling balls off when we needed them to put them in play. We weren’t giving our defense a chance to make plays.”
Parker took a stance that he wasn’t going to make excuses, and did exactly that.
“I said it before and I’ll say it again — I’m not here to make excuses,” the veteran righty said. “I don’t want to make excuses. There is a little bit more of a feel to that pitch but there were some other things going on that I needed to dig into mechanically and fix, as far as rushing out a little bit. But staying back, I feel like I made a couple of pretty good pitches. Again, they laid off of them but taking a step in the right direction. I’m not quite in midseason form yet but we’ll get there.”
Baldelli took it a step further, suggesting that if Parker hadn’t pitched on Saturday, he might have had a longer leash in the ninth inning.
…well except for Trevor Hildenberger, who was nasty
Nevertheless, Baldelli and Parker handed the ball off to Hildenberger, who did nasty things such as this to pick up the save:
What are you even supposed to do with that as a hitter? Have mercy.
Notes & Quotes
- Minnesota’s 8-4 start is its best since 2010 (9-3).
- Max Kepler extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a first-inning double. That’s the longest active streak in MLB.
- Garver is 8 for his last 13 after going 2 for 3 on Sunday.
- Parker on the battles he faced with the 1 and 2 hitters: “Yeah, I have to give them a lot of credit. (The) one- and two-hole (hitters) I thought I did a good job of getting ahead and just couldn’t quite put them away. They spoiled some good pitches and then I couldn’t execute 3-2. But I felt good out there. I felt like I wasn’t too far off. Obviously my fastball command wasn’t where I wanted it to be but I give them credit on spoiling some good pitches.”
- Baldelli on Buxton at the plate: “I think he’s been seeing the ball well. I think he’s swinging the bat with confidence. He swung the bat well in spring training, too. This is just a follow-through from what we’ve seen all year. He looked good this offseason when I saw him swing the bat. He’s looked good and strong and has been pretty good at swinging at strikes and taking pitches when they’re not what he’s looking for. He’s had a good approach.”