MINNEAPOLIS -- Jose Berrios' ascension to ace status could be underway this season.
The 23-year-old right-hander dominated the White Sox for seven scoreless innings, tying a career-high with 11 strikeouts, while Joe Mauer had two clutch hits to reach 2,000 for his career and lift the Twins to a 4-0 win at Target Field on Thursday. Berrios improved to 2-1 with a 2.18 ERA in his best start since his season-opening shutout.
"You don't want to downplay what Jose did," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "That was masterful, maybe one of his better outings -- even after he threw a shutout a couple starts ago -- in terms of being in command of where you saw the baseball and using all his pitches. But it was Joe's night."
Berrios scattered three hits without a walk -- and has issued one walk in 20 2/3 innings this year -- which shows his improved command after entering the year with 3.7 walks per nine innings in his first two seasons. His stuff was nearly unhittable, as he registered 18 swinging strikes, including 12 on his curveball alone. He threw first-pitch strikes to 20 of the 24 batters he faced, reaching just one 2-0 count all night.
"My grip on the curveball was great tonight," Berrios said through a translator. "It felt great. The weather was better, so it felt good."
Berrios was backed offensively by Mauer, who had an RBI single as part of a two-run third inning against right-hander Lucas Giolito, and a two-run single off reliever Aaron Bummer in the seventh to notch his 2,000th career hit.
"It was a big moment late in the game, and to put a couple runs up on the board made it even sweeter," Mauer said. "[Bummer] is tough. He's got a great sinker and slider. I was happy to be able to drive one up the middle there and bring home a couple runs. The thought was in my head that he might put some tough, borderline pitches there. But I'm glad I got one back up the middle."
Byron Buxton also sparked the two-run rally in the third with a single and stolen base, scoring on a grounder from James Dozier, despite the White Sox playing with the infield in. Mauer's 1,999th career hit was an RBI single to right to score Dozier.
"It wasn't an easy play to score on," Molitor said of Buxton. "But his ability to anticipate the ball in the ground and to get a good jump, those are the kind of runs that few people can create the way he did there in getting around the bases."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Mauer's milestone: Mauer made history with his 2,000th hit, joining Hall of Famers Rod Carew and Kirby Puckett as the only players to achieve the feat with Minnesota. Mauer, who has played his entire 15-year career with the Twins, is one of 12 active players who have reached the 2,000 hit plateau, with Adrian Gonzalez the most recent to reach it in Aug. 2017.
"Two of my heroes right there," Mauer said of Carew and Puckett. "To be mentioned with those guys and Harmon [Killebrew] early in the year with those [Opening Day] starts, it means a lot to me right now. And not just to me, the organization. To be mentioned with those guys is pretty special."
Since 2011, Twins starters have combined to register only 11 games with 10 or more strikeouts. Berrios has achieved that feat three times. Ervin Santana also has three 10-strikeout games over that span.
HE SAID IT
"You do the math of the percentage of players who are in that category versus the people who have had a chance to put the uniform on. and it's fairly low. You start finding yourself in categories and rising into areas that few people get a chance to experience. He said out there -- and I know he truly believes it -- 'We've got bigger fish to fry,' as far as what we're trying to accomplish here. -- Molitor, who had 3,319 career hits, on Mauer's milestone
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The White Sox appeared to break Buxton's streak of 26 consecutive stolen bases without being thrown out when he was ruled out at second base by umpire Nick Lentz on a steal attempt in third. But after a review, it was determined Buxton was never tagged and the call was overturned, giving him 27 straight steals without getting caught. It helped spark a two-run rally. Buxton added a 28th steal in a row in the eighth inning.
The Twins haven't announced a starter for Friday's game against the White Sox at Target Field at 7:10 p.m. CT, as it could be affected by the weather in Minnesota. But Mauer will look to build on his incredible start to this season, in which he's hitting .412/.545/.529.