MINNEAPOLIS — Coming up through the Minnesota Twins‘ system, Jose Berrios gained plenty of accolades and caused anxiety for the organization and its fans waiting for the right-hander to show his tantalizing mix of pitches at the major league level.
Berrios’ first start of the season, last Saturday at Cleveland, finally displayed the talent he possesses and confirmed the recognition that he received as a minor-leaguer.
Thursday’s follow-up was even better and had the Colorado Rockies heaping more praise on the young Puerto Rican.
Berrios (2-0) dazzled with a career-high 11 strikeouts and gave up just two hits in 7 2/3 innings as the Twins earned a 2-0 win over Colorado in Game 2 of a doubleheader.
“It looked a lot like (late Miami Marlins right-hander) Jose Fernandez, to be honest. Explosive, quick heater, that sweeping curveball that he can turn into a slider,” Rockies first baseman Ian Desmond said. “He looked good. Sometimes you got to tip your cap, and I have no shame in doing that today. He pitched really well.”
Max Kepler and Robbie Grossman each had two hits and an RBI for Minnesota, which salvaged the second game after a 5-1 loss earlier in the day. Brandon Kintzler allowed a single and a walk in the ninth but closed out his 11th save in 12 chances for the Twins.
Rockies starter Tyler Chatwood (3-6) walked a season-high five batters and surrendered five hits and two runs in five innings.
“I think with Tyler, again his stuff was outstanding,” Colorado manager Bud Black said. “The fastball had velocity. It just looked mechanically just a little bit out of sync as far as maybe coming down the mound a little bit.”
Nolan Arenado homered, and German Marquez (2-2) pitched five innings and allowed one run for the Rockies in the first game. Mark Reynolds added a two-run single as Colorado tied for second in the majors with its 13th road win of the season.
Ervin Santana (6-2) took the loss in the opener for Minnesota, allowing five runs in seven innings.
Long considered the top pitching prospect for a team desperate for help on the mound, Berrios struggled in a 14-game debut last season as he dealt with control problems.
Berrios looked strong in spring training but didn’t break camp with the Twins after the World Baseball Classic interrupted his spring work. He was recalled to fill an open rotation spot for Minnesota and beat Cleveland by pitching 7 2/3 innings with one run allowed on May 7.
On Thursday, Berrios held the Rockies hitless through four innings while walking one batter.
“He backed up the last one; might even have been a touch better,” said Twins manager Paul Molitor, who was booed by the hometown crowd as he went to pull Berrios in the eighth inning with 106 pitches. “I just think it was maybe a touch more dominant. But all the things that we’ve asked him to do, in terms of trying to help him find success at this level, he’s been trying to address and it’s been showing up so far in his first couple of starts.”
Berrios controlled his fastball and displayed a devastating slider to keep Colorado off-balance. He struck out seven of the first 13 batters. Berrios hit two batters in the first two innings but stranded each with strikeouts. Gerardo Parra had Colorado’s first hit to lead off the fifth but was caught stealing.
“The work I put in in the offseason and during spring training and be able to be ahead of the hitters gives me the confidence,” Berrios said. “I can tell you guys that I’m 100 percent compared to last year in my confidence. I didn’t have that last year.”
Kepler singled to center in the first to drive in Grossman, and Grossman plated Ehire Adrianza with a single in the fourth.
Chatwood struggled with command throughout but was able to hold Minnesota in check.
“I have been walking a lot of guys and I’ve been unable to strand guys,” Chatwood said. “Today, I was able to strand guys even though I walked them.”
NOTES: RHP Jose Berrios’ 11 strikeouts were the most by a Twins pitcher since Ervin Santana had 10 against the Kansas City Royals on Aug. 21, 2016. … Colorado manager Bud Black said SS Trevor Story (left shoulder strain) would start a rehab assignment with Triple-A Albuquerque on Friday. Story has hit with the team and fielded ground balls to test his non-throwing shoulder and had no issues. … Minnesota manager Paul Molitor said LHP Adalberto Mejia would be recalled to fill the open spot in the team’s rotation and start on Saturday. Mejia started the season with the Twins, going 0-1 with a 5.79 ERA in three starts as a rookie. … Wednesday’s rainout was the fourth this season for Minnesota and the second at home. The Twins have played the fewest games in the majors. … The Rockies travel to Cincinnati for a weekend series against the Reds. Minnesota hosts Kansas City.