TORONTO -- The Twins’ homer-happy offense has gotten much of the attention this season, but in securing a series victory over the Blue Jays on Tuesday night, Jose Berrios flashed a reminder that the starting rotation has more than done its part, too.
Berrios threw seven shutout innings to lead the Twins to a 3-0 victory at Rogers Centre, winning his career-best fifth consecutive start and sixth of 2019, tying Domingo German and Tyler Glasnow for the Major League lead. Berrios also tied the MLB lead with his seventh quality start of 2019. Minnesota's young ace said during the offseason that one of his goals this year was to win 20 games. So far, so good.
“I know I have big goals,” Berrios said. “I know I have to work. Every day, every start is God's reason for me, so the way I was pitching, that's the way I want to keep pitching for the rest of the season. Tonight just happened, and I'm ready for the next one."
The last time the Twins held opponents scoreless in consecutive games had been June 2-4, 2013, when Scott Diamond and Sam Deduno led them to a pair of shutout wins over the Mariners and Royals.
“Honestly, the last two days, it has been their pitching,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “Perez came in hot, pitching really well, and Berrios is one of the best pitchers in baseball. Not making excuses. They’re coming in hot to this town, those two guys. That’s a good lineup, that’s a good team and their pitching has been very good.”
Though he had relied on his changeup and fastball more in his last two starts, Berrios turned back to his signature curveball on Tuesday and commanded the zone with his heater as he scattered four hits, struck out five and did not issue a walk for the third consecutive start. Berrios threw 33 curveballs and used the pitch for four of his five strikeouts.
“He used his breaking ball exceptionally well tonight, I think,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I think it was a true weapon in every way. He used it in every possible way and any way that he wanted it, he had it, and I think he felt good and strong.”
Berrios only attained three-ball counts twice in Tuesday night’s game, and he now has 51 strikeouts with only eight walks in 53 1/3 innings this season.
“I think there's more concentration with every pitch, pitch by pitch,” Berrios said. “I'm trying to command my fastball down and away, glove-side, and trying to throw my breaking ball and offspeed pitches for strikes, too."
Garver overcomes scary situation with key homer
With the Twins already clinging to a perilous lack of catcher depth due to Jason Castro’s right elbow contusion and Willians Astudillo’s left hamstring strain, the club narrowly avoided a crisis in the bottom of the first inning, when Mitch Garver was struck in the neck by the sharp end of Randal Grichuk’s broken bat on the backswing.
Ultimately, Garver was fine; he said that the scrapes to his neck only bled a small amount, and he was good to go back into the game after the wound was treated with some ointment.
The same, apparently, couldn’t be said for the blood pressure of emergency catcher C.J. Cron.
"C.J. had an absolute heart attack,” Garver said with a laugh. “The story was that the first thing he did was turn to Wes [Johnson], our pitching coach, and say, 'I don't know how to call pitches. I've never called pitches before.' So that was good."
It was fortunate for the Twins that Garver was able to stay in the game, as he not only guided Berrios through seven effective innings, but also clubbed a key two-run homer in the sixth inning off Toronto starter Aaron Sanchez that gave Minnesota some much-needed insurance runs.
Garver’s 424-foot shot into the second deck in left-center field was his seventh of the season, tying Gary Sanchez for the most homers in the American League as a catcher. Garver also tied Max Kepler and Nelson Cruz for second on the team in long balls, despite having played in 11 fewer games this season.
"That's probably one of the better feelings in the world,” Garver said. “[Sanchez] was beating me up a little bit tonight. He has good stuff. I respect the way he throws the ball. He is hard to hit. The ball explodes out of his hand. So I was cheating a little bit to that one. I was happy to get it in the air because he had gotten underneath my barrel a couple of times.”
Garver was 3-for-3 with a walk and now has five three-hit games this season among his 15 starts. Twins catchers are now hitting .330/.408/.732 with an MLB-leading 12 homers.