Minneapolis – Blue Jays need three seniors.
Kevin Gusman and Alec Manoah gave the Blue Jays two legitimate front-line starters, each fitting every definition of No. 1 in postseason. For a deep run in October, though, this team needs Jose Berrios to be able to steal the games.
Before the Twins went out against the Blue Jays 6-5 on Friday at Target Field in a chaotic bottom of 10 where several defensive errors cost Toronto, it looked like a Berrios night. He’s been dominant early on, touring the Minnesota lineup and building on the massive momentum he built through July, a month he spent rediscovering his form as one of the most consistent starters in baseball. Then came the big inning knocking.
“That’s why I got a little angry,” said Pierius. “Because we are in this situation right now vying for our goal as a team. Not being able to go long in the game made me crazy. My team supported my back and we almost came back.”
Berríos was unable to escape the fourth, allowing a pair of home runs (one on the third and one on the fourth) before leaving with five runs against him over the 3 and 3 runs. That pushes his ERA to 5.19, miles away from any typical Berríos ERA, but July has earned him a level of confidence again.
It felt close, and frankly, that’s how most of Piraeus’ struggles felt. It doesn’t completely lose area or crumble in a great way. It’s little things, one-on-ones and bad timing.
“Judging by his stuff and how early he was playing? They were rocking,” said interim manager John Schneider. “They were aggressive on him. It was working great. His tone was low, and he was about to roll, but some nasty hits against some hitters who can do some damage.”
At this point, you can divide the Berríos season into two seasons.
From opening day until the end of June, it was ugly. Berríos had just spent five seasons being one of the most consistent shooters on the planet, but he suddenly lost it, scoring 5.86 ERAs during his first 15. Had it not been for Gausman’s amazing start to the season and Manoah’s emergence as a legitimate cornerstone of the franchise, it was all we talked about in its first three months.
Then came July. Berríos finally named his minor tweaks with shooting coach Pete Walker and settled into a groove, scoring up to 3.00 ERA during his six month starts with 42 strikes over the course of 36 rounds. This featured a 13-stroke performance against the Phillies on July 12 at Rogers Center that reminded you that Berríos is not just a steady arm, but a capable bowler who delivers great game-changing performances.
“I want to stay on that path and try to maintain that consistency,” said Pierius. “Tonight, I didn’t throw well, but I’m going to turn the page. I know I’ve been throwing the ball lately, so I want to keep that in mind.”
This is especially important because there are no high altitude starters to be found after a week of August for Blue Jays. Earlier in the week, Luis Castillo went to the Mariners and Frankie Montas went to the Yankees, but the Blue Jays trusted their top end, choosing instead to improve their depth by adding Mitch White of the Dodgers, who you’ll see on Saturday.
There is no ace up their sleeve with high probability on the cusp either. Those were days in the past for Nate Pearson, who is slowly coming back from another injury, and prospective No. 3 Ricky Tiedemann is still only 19 years old. The story of the season will be in 2023, and he just made his successful debut in Double-A, but that’s a long way to go.
What happened Friday, though, was the post-season atmosphere in Minneapolis.
It’s something Berríos has known from his days promoting the Twins, having made three pre-season trips, but is still looking to do so for the first time with the Blue Jays.
Toronto fans filled the stands above the Blue Jays’ hideout on the third base line, their cheers at times overtaken by locals. When Vladimir Guerrero Jr. launched a home run to center field to round up the Blue Jays, chants of “Flady! Flad!” The twins’ fans drowned completely.
From Raimel Tapia’s single in match nine to the Twins’ exit in match ten of close play on the board, this game had it all, especially mayhem.
From 2017 to 2121, Berríos’ starters didn’t have much of that, and the Blue Jays will need more of their July form if they’re hoping for success in October.