MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins turned to their ace to right the ship after a series split with the Tigers that was marred by missed opportunities at the plate, but instead the Twins went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position, and Jose Berrios was hit hard for the first time this
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins turned to their ace to right the ship after a series split with the Tigers that was marred by missed opportunities at the plate, but instead the Twins went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position, and Jose Berrios was hit hard for the first time this season.
Berrios was unable to complete six innings for the first time in his last 10 starts. He allowed a career-high 12 hits and was tagged for five runs -- his most in 2019 -- in a 5-4 loss at Target Field on Monday night that dealt the Twins consecutive defeats for only the third time this year.
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“As far as Jose, he’s giving us so much and so many good starts,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “So much consistency that you are going to run into some starts like this at some point, too."
Though Berrios hadn’t issued a walk in his last three starts, he allowed three free passes to a strikeout-averse Angels squad that also tagged him for two homers.
In the third inning, he left a fastball down the heart of the plate to Shohei Ohtani, who hit a two-run homer to give the Angels the lead, and in the sixth, he hung a curveball to Tommy La Stella that eventually landed in the left-field bleachers.
“I don't think he had his best fastball command or the breaking ball command that we have seen,” Baldelli said. “He didn't have one thing to rely on where he could go back to it tonight. I think he battled himself a little bit tonight, too.”
Berrios also did get slightly unlucky, as three of the Angels’ hits -- including an RBI single by Albert Pujols in the fifth inning that netted Los Angeles an insurance run -- found holes in the vacated side of an infield shift. He and Baldelli ultimately credited the Angels for a strong game plan and for finding ways to put the ball in play.
“That’s part of the game,” Berrios said. “Sometimes they hit it right in front of a guy, right to a guy. Sometimes they beat the shift like they did today. It’s just part of the game. I just wanted to keep executing my game plan against them, and that’s that. It’s just part of the game.”
“That's going to happen,” Baldelli said. “Just remaining confident in our process and what we are doing out there in our group is probably the most important. We don't have any issue with that. That's kind of the way we roll with it. It was a tough day to watch it. It was a frustrating day, but not because I think of anything that we did, it just played out like that."
Gonzalez atones for error with continued hot hitting
The first start of Marwin Gonzalez’s career in right field didn’t get off on the right foot, as he committed an error that keyed a three-run rally by the Angels, but he later atoned for the misplay with a key homer that continued his hot month at the plate.
Gonzalez’s two-run blast in the fifth inning off Angels starter Tyler Skaggs was his second long ball in three days and briefly tied the score before the Angels tallied another run in the following frame against Berrios to take the lead for good.
“I was looking for a pitch in the zone that I could do damage with, and I was lucky that he left it up in the zone,” Gonzalez said.
After hitting .167/.244/.256 in March and April, Gonzalez has finally started to turn things around with a .349/.440/.512 line in May. He has hit safely in six straight games, and 10 of his last 11.
Baldelli postulated that the early struggles could have stemmed from the fact that Gonzalez, a switch-hitter, saw the vast majority (77 of 86) of his plate appearances from the left side in March and April as the Twins battled almost exclusively right-handed starters in the early part of their schedule.
“It seems like once he started to see some pitches going up there right-handed, he went out there and probably had better consistent at-bats from the left side, too,” Baldelli said. “But he’s looking good. I think he’s feeling pretty good about what he’s doing out there, and I know we are, too.”
"That's something that I've been asking since I got to pro ball, to guys with more experience that have been switch-hitting,” Gonzalez said. “It's hard because you're never going to be good at the same time on both sides.”
The homer, Gonzalez’s fourth of the season, came two innings after he overran a single by Mike Trout in right field and watched the ball roll under his outstretched right hand. The error allowed La Stella to score from first, and Trout reached third base before Ohtani’s homer gave the Angels an early 3-2 lead.
Though Gonzalez had made 131 career starts in the outfield entering Monday, he had only appeared in right field in four games, the last time on June 18, 2018, when he played three innings there after moving over from left field.
Gonzalez said that Baldelli had told him during Spring Training that he would be an option in right field on days when Max Kepler might sit against left-handed starters.
The Twins will need both Gonzalez and Willians Astudillo to get more comfortable in the corner outfield positions, with Miguel Sanó likely set to return to the Twins in the next week and fourth outfielder Jake Cave having been optioned to Triple-A Rochester on Monday.
“We knew that he had never played out there,” Baldelli said. “We talked about it; we talked about getting work in out there. But still, as the manager, as a member of the staff, you want your players to be as prepared as possible, and we probably could have done a better job of helping with that. But he ultimately is ... a very confident guy.”
Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.