BOSTON–It appears Jose Berrios’ struggles are continuing into September.
After an August in which he had a 7.57 ERA and allowed opponents to hit .333/.395/.556 against him, Berrios’ first September start didn’t go any better. After allowing a home run to Mookie Betts on the first pitch of the game that just snuck over the Green Monster in the first, he allowed a three-run home run to Betts that went way over the Monster and out of Fenway Park in the second. Ultimately, he went five innings and allowed six earned runs on eight hits with three walks and six strikeouts.
“I felt really good, felt strong,” said Berrios after the game. “Two pitches, two homers. I missed location with those. I need to locate that pitch better. After that I felt good. I’ll just go out there and try to locate my pitches better the next time.”
If Berrios can’t find the form that made him one of the American League’s best pitchers in the first half, it obviously significantly complicates the Twins’ chances in October.
If the Twins are able to win the Central, Berrios figures to be the Game One starter in the ALDS. But it’s difficult to imagine the second half version of Berrios having much success against the Yankees or Astros. Jake Odorizzi’s having a nice year and Michael Pineda’s pitched well in the second half, but Berrios has the ceiling to be the shutdown ace the Twins need him to be in October. Right now, he’s not close to that form.
Although the velocity was good Wednesday (his fastball sat 92-94 and touched 95), his location again eluded him. Betts’ first home run was a middle-in fastball that he appeared to be sitting on, and the second home run came on a belt-high hanging slider. When Berrios is on, he’s able to bury that slider for swinging strikes, and while he did rack up six strikeouts, he also walked three and gave up a lot of hard contact, including a Rafael Devers fly out that Jake Cave may have robbed from going out in right-center.
There’s still time for Berrios to get his command back and return to the pitcher that’s made two straight All-Star games. The fact that his velocity was solid—after a couple of starts in which it appeared to be down—is certainly a positive sign. With his next start likely coming against the red-hot Nationals, he’ll be tested again by the type of high-caliber offense he figures to see in October.
One night after pitching a scoreless inning in Boston, Sam Dyson headed back to the Twin Cities after experiencing soreness in his shoulder. It is believed to be a similar issue—tendinitis—as what he was experiencing shortly after the Twins traded for him, when he went on the IL after two bad appearances in early August.
The news is a setback for the Twins’ ‘pen. Dyson had largely returned to form since coming off the IL, with a 2.53 ERA and seven strikeouts in 10.2 innings. He probably ranks as the third reliever in the ‘pen, after Taylor Rogers and Sergio Romo.
With a trip to the IL unlikely in September, it’s difficult to say how long he’ll be out. It doesn’t sound like it’s particularly serious, and part of the reason for sending him back to the Twin Cities now was to give him access to the Twins’ facilities for rehab. Dyson also likely wasn’t going to pitch in Wednesday’s game.
If he is out for more than a few days, though, it could mean Brusdar Graterol will be pitching in more high-leverage situations. The Twins likely wanted to ease Graterol into the big leagues in mostly low-leverage spots, but that could change a bit in the interim. If he can throw his 100 MPH fastball consistently for strikes, he should do well in any spot.
Ian Miller made his major league debut Wednesday as a late-inning defensive replacement for Max Kepler. As you’d expect, the 27-year-old is very happy to be in the big leagues for the first time. Miller’s been a solid minor leaguer, slashing .274/.340/.357 in his career, while mostly playing center field. His game, and value, is predicated on speed. He stole 35 bases in 42 attempts in Triple-A this year, after stealing 33 in 42 attempts in 2018.
“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” Miller said of his brief time in the majors. “It’s been three, four days of being here in the big leagues. It’s a dream. I was just talking about signing the Green Monster, and I didn’t really have any words for it. You know the history behind it, and to be able to put your name up there, as a baseball player, not just someone doing a tour, it’s incredible. I was signing my name and actually got goosebumps.”
The Twins likely traded for Miller to be a Terrance Gore type of player in September; a speedy outfielder who can steal a key bag in a big spot late in the game. With Byron Buxton still working back from his shoulder injury, Miller may be first in line when the Twins next need a pinch-runner.
Stealing bases is a craft Miller clearly cares a lot about, and he understands why he’s in the big leagues and what they want him to do. When he arrived in Rochester after the trade, the coaching staff told him to push the envelope on the bases.
“(Rochester manager Joel) Skinner told me, ‘your role here is to hit leadoff, play good defense, steal some bags in big situations, and be a pinch-runner,’” he said. “I played a couple games there, stole a couple bases, he said they wanted me to test the limits a little bit, not be so precise, run when everyone knows you’re going to run, even when the pitcher’s slide stepping. It was cool to be given a free pass almost, it doesn’t matter if I get thrown out.”
While Miller probably won’t get many starts, if he steals one or two critical bases in September or October, he could make a significant impact.
“I want to not just steal a base, I want to steal a base to score a run. I’m not running just to run, I’m running to get in scoring position. They wanted me to steal meaningful bases and help the team win. Whatever they want me to do, I’m here.”