MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — If the pitching-starved Minnesota Twins are going to continue their surprising run to begin the 2017 season, they’re going to need Jose Berrios to be a key part of their starting rotation.
So far, so good for Berrios and the Twins.
The 22-year-old right-hander allowed two hits and struck out 11 over 7 2/3 innings as the Twins beat the Colorado Rockies 2-0 on Thursday night, salvaging a split of an interleague doubleheader between the first-place teams in the AL Central and NL West.
The Twins scored just three runs in the doubleheader, but Berrios (2-0) made his scant support in the nightcap hold up with the best outing of his young career.
“(Berrios) looked a lot like Jose Fernandez, to be honest; explosive quick heater, that sweeping curveball that he can turn into a slider,” Rockies first baseman Ian Desmond said. “He looked good. Sometimes you got to tip your cap, and I have no shame in doing that today.”
In Game 1, Nolan Arenado homered and Mark Reynolds drove in two runs to lead the Rockies to a 5-1 victory. They scored all their runs off Twins starter Ervin Santana (6-2), who entered the day leading the majors with a 1.50 ERA but struggled for his second straight home start.
In the nightcap, Berrios showed why he’s being touted as Minnesota’s next ace. He posted an 8.02 ERA in 14 starts last year, walking 35 batters in 58 1/3 innings. But in his 2017 debut on May 13 at Cleveland, Berrios allowed just one run, two hits and one walk while pitching into the eighth inning. On Thursday he was even better, posting a career high in strikeouts and throwing first-pitch strikes to 21 of 27 hitters he faced.
“The work I put in in the offseason and during spring training and be able to be ahead of the hitters gives me the confidence,” Berrios said through an interpreter. “I can tell you guys that I’m 100 percent compared to last year in my confidence. I didn’t have that last year.”
The Twins got RBI singles from Max Kepler in the first inning and Robbie Grossman in the fourth. They were two of five hits allowed by Tyler Chatwood (3-6), who also walked five and struck out four in five innings.
Berrios issued his only walk of the game to pinch-hitter Tony Wolters with two outs in the eighth. When Twins manager Paul Molitor came out to pull Berrios from the game with left-hander Charlie Blackmon up next, Twins fans gave the manager a hearty round of boos.
Reliever Taylor Rogers came on to retire Blackmon on a fly ball, Brandon Kintzler worked a scoreless ninth for his 11th save in 12 chances, and Molitor was able to laugh about the heckling after the game.
“I kind of anticipated it was going to happen,” he said. “That’s why I called for him early so I didn’t change my mind on the way out.”
Reynolds has a team-leading 35 RBIs to go with a whopping 1.008 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. He signed a minor league contract a couple of weeks before spring training, and has been difficult to bench even with Desmond back from injury. With the interleague matchup, manager Bud Black was able to use Reynolds as the designated hitter.
The rainout Wednesday night forced the day-night, split-admission doubleheader Thursday and threw a curveball at the pitching plans for both teams.
While Chatwood and Berrios pitched the second game, neither manager expressed interest in bringing any of Thursday’s starters back Monday on short rest.
Molitor announced that Alejandro Mejia will start Saturday against Kansas City, leaving options open for Monday. Black was noncommittal for Monday, when the team will play at Philadelphia, but Jeff Hoffman could be recalled from Triple-A for that game.
Rockies: SS Trevor Story, placed on the 10-day DL a week ago with a strained left shoulder, took batting practice before the game and was dispatched to a rehab assignment with Triple-A Albuquerque. He’s batting only .180 with a team-high 48 strikeouts in 111 at-bats.
Rockies: LHP Tyler Anderson (2-4, 6.43 ERA) will take the mound Friday at Cincinnati, with RHP Lisalverto Bonilla (0-1, 4.85) pitching for the Reds.
Twins: RHP Hector Santiago (4-2, 3.80 ERA) will pitch Friday against Kansas City, opposite RHP Nate Karns (2-2, 4.46) for the Royals.
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