Forced to throw strikes, Berrios has off night
Twins righty walks four, needs 90 pitches to get through 3 1/3 vs. patient Yankees
NEW YORK -- For as good as Jose Berrios has been in his breakout second season, the 23-year-old still has outings where he clearly fights his command and struggles as a result.
Tuesday was one of those nights, as the right-hander scuffled against the Yankees in a tough 5-2 loss at Yankee Stadium that halted Minnesota's chance to gain a game on the Angels -- who lost Tuesday night -- for the second American League Wild Card spot. Berrios lasted 3 1/3 innings -- tied for his second-shortest outing of the season -- and was hurt by four walks, allowing three runs on five hits.
Berrios had trouble establishing his fastball and getting ahead of hitters, throwing first-pitch strikes to eight of the 19 batters he faced. He also had trouble putting away hitters with two strikes, leading him to use 90 pitches to record just 10 outs. The righty's fastball hit as high as 97 mph in his first start in the Bronx, but his inability to locate it proved costly.
"Jose didn't have the command," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "His fastball was really jumping. But it looked like he was trying to do too much and get a little extra, but the command hurt him. A couple 0-2 hits and base on balls. We were in traffic every inning."
Berrios fell to 12-8 with a 3.94 ERA in 24 starts, and his inconsistency is evident in his 2.34 ERA in his 12 wins, but his 6.14 ERA in his other dozen starts. He's also posted a 2.45 ERA at home, but a 5.28 ERA in 14 road starts.
Berrios, though, downplayed his road struggles and felt he was mostly around the zone, but credited the Yankees for their patience.
"They had good at-bats against me," Berrios said through a translator. "They saw me earlier in the year and made adjustments. I tried to attack with my fastball, curveball and changeup, but they took a lot of pitches and were able to have a good night."
Left fielder Brett Gardner said it was part of the Yankees' strategy to make Berrios throw strikes, and they capitalized on his inability to do so.
"He's got a really, really good arm, he's got a really bright future ahead of him," Gardner said. "He's a tough at-bat, and it was nice to drive his pitch count up early and get him out of there and get to the bullpen. That was kind of our plan all along, to try to make him work early, and that's what we did."
To be fair, Berrios was pitching with a lot on his mind, as his wife gave birth to the couple's third child on Friday, and Hurricane Maria is headed toward his native Puerto Rico.
"I'd be lying to you if I said I wasn't thinking of all those things," Berrios said. "Most of my family is in Minnesota, but there are a lot of people on the island going through it, so my heart goes out to them. As far as my kid, it's awesome and another blessing to bring into my family. I know it was a bad night tonight, but that's part of the game and hopefully I can move forward from it."