ARLINGTON -- Give these Twins an inch, and they’ll take a mile.
It should have been a scoreless first frame for Rangers starter Ariel Jurado, who allowed a pair of singles but induced what looked to be an inning-ending double play off the bat of Eddie Rosario. Instead, the throw to first bounced off Jurado’s glove and the Twins took advantage with six unearned runs that powered them to a 12-7 victory at Globe Life Park on Saturday night.
Here are three things to note from an eventful night in Arlington that saw 14 combined runs in the first two innings and a benches-clearing incident in the eighth:
1. Gonzalez, Sano keep pressure on after six-run first
“The ability to not lose focus, the ability to stay locked in, have good at-bats, to continue to put runs on the board is what’s going to lead to wins,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “You never know which runs are going to end up mattering. They all matter, and being able to tack them on is always important.”
Gonzalez followed his first-inning double with a pair of singles to record three straight games of three or more hits for the first time in his career. He improved to 10-for-14 through the first three games of the series.
"I would say I’m swinging at strikes,” Gonzalez said. “What I said the other day -- I'm being more under control. That's probably the reason why. I'm swinging at better pitches."
Cave’s third hit set up Sano for his 23rd homer of the season in the ninth inning, giving the Twins a pair of insurance runs. The big third baseman also singled in the first and second innings and crushed all three of his hits, with exit velocities of 106.8 mph, 110.6 mph and 111.5 mph, according to Statcast. He has three homers in his last four games.
“I just tried to hit the ball to second base today,” Sano said. “They made good pitches, and I just tried to make good contact and hit the ball hard."
2. Despite ugly pitching line, Berrios confident in mechanical fix
That early flurry of runs proved important, as Jose Berrios was hit hard for the second time this month, allowing seven runs in 4 1/3 innings, including a pair of homers by former teammate Danny Santana. Four of the runs off Berrios were unearned after Sano’s fielding error in the second inning.
It marked Berrios’ second tough outing in his last three starts -- the right-hander allowed a career-high nine runs to the Braves on Aug. 6 -- but he felt that his performance was still trending in the right direction on Saturday despite the ugly pitching line.
Berrios has been working with pitching coaches Wes Johnson and Jeremy Hefner to correct his mechanics over his last several starts. Berrios saw his fastball velocity tick up to an average of 93.6 mph on Saturday after hovering around 90-92 mph over his last several appearances. He felt that he missed a few locations with his fastballs but was, overall, pleased with the progress.
“I think he deserved better than what his line’s going to end up looking like after this game,” Baldelli said. “I actually feel pretty strongly about that, and we could have put him in a better spot and gotten him out of some innings because he gave us a chance, too, and we just didn’t get it done.”
3. Benches clear after misunderstanding
The eighth inning saw the benches and both bullpens spill onto the field after Rangers reliever Shawn Kelley and Gonzalez jawed at each other following an inning-ending groundout by Gonzalez that ended a run-scoring rally by the Twins.
Kelley had been at the center of some controversy in the series opener Thursday, when Cave singled on a 3-0 pitch in the ninth inning of a blowout and the Twins felt that the right-hander intentionally hit Max Kepler with a 3-0 fastball during the following at-bat.
But both Rangers manager Chris Woodward and Gonzalez said after the game that the fracas was a simple misunderstanding, as both Gonzalez and Kelley were frustrated at themselves at the end of the inning and the yelling escalated due to the proximity.
“Basically two frustrated guys,” Woodward said. “They weren’t talking to each other. One was mad he hit a ground ball and the other was mad he gave up a run. Both kind of yelled at the same time, and one thought one was talking to the other. It was nothing. Obviously, two guys were heated. There was no beef between each other.”