MINNEAPOLIS -- Big Sexy was alluring, but The Machine was nearly unhittable.
That’s the best summation the action Sunday afternoon, June 24, at Target Field, where Twins right-hander Jose Berrios set a career high with 12 strikeouts over seven innings while outdueling Bartolo Colon in a 2-0 win over the Texas Rangers.
“Every time when I warm him up before the game, I have in my head that it’s going to be a special day,” Twins catcher Bobby Wilson said of Berrios. “He’s just that electric of a pitcher and has that good of stuff. You just have a good feeling every time you see him on the mound. His pure stuff is elite in the game.”
Robbie Grossman doubled and scored the game’s first run on Wilson’s run-scoring single in the fifth and drove in the other an inning later with a two-out single. The 45-year-old Colon, who was trying to tie Dennis Martinez for most wins (245) by a Latin American-born pitcher, scattered seven hits and a walk in seven innings against his former team.
Berrios, 24, was just that much better over the course of his 107-pitch outing. He worked out of a first-inning jam with a strikeout of Rougned Odor after Shin-Soo Choo opted to hold at third on a single to left, then didn’t allow another hit until Odor’s leadoff bunt in the seventh.
Even that could have been ruled the season’s first error on Joe Mauer after the first baseman dropped Berrios’ acrobatic throw from one knee along the third-base line.
Ending a three-game losing streak in which they had allowed 26 combined runs, the Twins remained eight games behind the first-place Cleveland Indians in the American League Central. Fernando Rodney handled the ninth for his 15th straight save conversion, dating to April 26, as the Rangers saw their majors-best seven-game winning streak end.
Berrios retired 16 of 18 during the middle innings, allowing only full-count walks to veterans and Adrian Beltre (nine pitches). Mixing in a half-dozen changeups, he worked 17 batters to two strikes and put all but two of them away.
Seven of his strikeouts came on his signature sweeping curveball, five more came on a fastball that touched 95 mph, and he got Beltre to swing over the change in the sixth. Asked if he knew he was closing in on his strikeout mark after reaching double-digit strikeouts in three prior starts this year, Berrios smiled and said yes.
“They are the right team to do it (against) because they swing a lot,” he said after recording 18 swinging strikes.
It was an athletic fielding play, however, that punctuated Berrios’ performance moments after he handed Joey Gallo his league-leading 111th strikeout.
Berrios reached across his body to snare Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s comebacker and whirled to throw to second, starting the inning-ending double play in the seventh. With that, Berrios pounded his red glove three times in celebration.
“I’m an athlete, and I’m here to do that,” Berrios said through a translator. “I like to compete. Every time I have a chance to make plays like that, I’m going to do it.”
Earlier, Colon clapped into his blue glove three times in acknowledgement of Wilson’s 69-mph flare into short left field. That two-out hit reversed a 1-for-11 history against his former Angels teammate for Wilson, who came in hitting .138.
Like Wilson, Berrios has great respect for Colon, who passed hall of famer Juan Marichal in his last start for most wins by a Dominican Republic native. In late May Colon fulfilled a promise to his late mother of pitching in the majors after his 45th birthday.
“It’s great to see that guy,” Berrios said. “He’s a good friend. He’s very calm and he goes out there and executes his pitches. He doesn’t throw hard, but he throws strikes. That’s what I learned from him: his confidence.”
The Twins might have broken the logjam in the fourth, but Eddie Rosario got picked off first ahead of Eduardo Escobar’s majors-leading 33rd double.
Grossman improved to 4 for 9 against Colon with his ground single to left in the sixth. That scored Rosario after he led off with his second hit of the day.