Berrios pounds zone with confidence vs. Rox

Twins right-hander strikes out 11 over 7 2/3 to split doubleheader

Berrios pounds zone with confidence vs. Rox

MINNEAPOLIS -- As Paul Molitor went to take Jose Berrios out of the Twins' 2-0 win over the Rockies on Thursday night, he was greeted by a chorus of boos from fans at Target Field.

The Twins manager did nothing wrong. The fans were just disappointed that the Berrios show had come to an end. And even Molitor couldn't blame them for their reaction.

"I anticipated it was going to happen. That's why I called for him early so I didn't change my mind on the way out," Molitor said.

The 22-year-old spun a gem during Game 2 of Thursday's doubleheader, earning his first career win at Target Field. Berrios struck out a career-high 11 batters across 7 2/3 innings, allowed two hits, one walk and two hit-by-pitches. He never allowed more than one baserunner to reach in an inning.

Berrios' showing helped the Twins avoid a sweep, after Ervin Santana suffered a rare off start to begin the twin bill and the Twins dropped the opener Tuesday. It also showed a glimpse at the right-hander's great potential.

"To be able to come up here and get off to a good start [is huge]," Molitor said. "We talked about the difficulty of expectations. A couple of big starts against a couple really good teams in Cleveland and Colorado, that adds to the positivity of what he's done so far."

Berrios' 11 K's in 11 seconds

After starting the season with Triple-A Rochester, Berrios joined the Twins last week. In his first start against the Indians, Berrios tossed 7 2/3 frames of one-run ball and allowed just two hits. In fact, the lone run came on a wild pitch.

Berrios was even more dominant Thursday against the Rockies. Colorado's first hit came at the start of the fifth inning. He set a career high with 11 strikeouts, becoming the first Twins starter to strike out double-digit batters since Santana last August.

The right-hander founds success by mixing in all of his pitches, including a devastating curveball, staying ahead in the count with his fastball. He admitted he couldn't pinpoint what his best pitch was.

"The strike [was my best pitch], but all three of them were good today," Berrios said. "I felt like I had great control of my curveball, not only to be a strikeout pitch. But again I thought all three pitches were great."

Berrios discusses great outing

And that just might be the biggest difference for Berrios, who went 3-7 with an 8.02 ERA in 14 starts last year: his ability to throw strikes. Berrios threw a total of 43.4 percent of pitches in the strike zone in 2016, which marked the 14th-lowest rate among 266 pitchers with at least 1,000 pitches.

Though it is just two starts, Berrios is already showing an emphasis on throwing strikes. After throwing 68.3 percent of strikes against the Indians, Berrios posted a 67.9 percent clip against Colorado. He credited his confidence as the biggest key for the early improvement.

"The work I put in the offseason and Spring Training is what gives me the confidence," Berrios said.

"I can tell you guys 100 percent it's my confidence. I didn't have that last year."

Shane Jackson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Minneapolis. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.