José Berríos’ homecoming started with a tribute video on the scoreboard and a large ovation from the Target Field crowd on Thursday. It’ll conclude with catered food for himself and his teammates on Sunday from a favorite local restaurant.
But amid a nice welcome back to the Twin Cities, Berríos’ former teammates denied him what he was looking for on Friday night: a win.
He can thank rookie Bailey Ober in large part for that. Ober threw 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball in the Twins’ 3-1 win over the Blue Jays on Friday night at Target Field, sending the former Twin to the loss despite him tossing a quality start.
“It’s pretty awesome to pitch on the same day as him when we were teammates just a couple months ago,” Ober said. “It’s pretty special going against a guy like that with his character and his stuff, his baseball IQ. It was an honor to go against him.”
While Berríos is an important part of the Twins’ recent past, Ober figures to be an important part of their near future, and Friday’s outing was another example why.
Ober held a potent Blue Jays (85-69) offense — one which he faced just last weekend — to just four hits in his outing. The one run they scored came in the sixth on Marcus Semien’s 42nd home run of the season. Semien was the last batter Ober faced before the Twins (69-85) turned it over to the bullpen, which did not allow a hit the remainder of the game.
A stingy effort from the pitching staff — Jorge Alcala, Juan Minaya, Tyler Duffey and Alexander Colomé followed Ober into the game — helped the Twins to their fourth straight victory.
“It’s hard to put into words just how dangerous this lineup is that we’re facing,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “In a heartbeat, the game can go from having a lead to being well behind if you do not go out there and execute a good, well thought out plan and make good pitches, but our guys made good pitches from beginning to end. There were very few mistakes.”
There were few mistakes on Berrios’ end, too, but there were just enough for the Twins to capitalize on.
The former Twins starter walked Andrelton Simmons to lead off the sixth inning. Luis Arraez followed, tripling him home for the first run of the game. And then, Berríos’ longtime teammate Byron Buxton — both were drafted in 2012 — hit a two-run home run that disappeared over the center-field wall to give the Twins a three-run lead.
“I felt really good tonight. Obviously in that third inning, I walked a guy. That’s our enemy always, when you walk some guy,” Berríos said. “No matter how, they’re going to score so that’s what happen. And then that homer, I left a pitch right in the middle with Buck, but other than that, I feel good how I throw the ball … tonight.”
While Berríos said it felt different pitching at Target Field against the Twins — he beat the Twins on Sunday at the Rogers Centre — he said it was “amazing,” competing against the team that gave him an opportunity to be a big leaguer.
Well, amazing besides the loss.
Though Berríos finished out six strong innings, striking out 10, that three-run inning was just enough to spoil the on-field part of Berrios’ homecoming.
“José took the ball on their end. He was very sharp. His stuff was electric. He pitched very, very well,” Baldelli said. “Our guys just pitched better today and that’s really all it came down to.”