MINNEAPOLIS – Pitching has frequently been failing the Minnesota Twins this season.
Not if José Berríos can help it.
Berríos threw seven commanding innings against the highest-scoring team in the majors, Jorge Polanco had three RBIs and the Twins beat the Houston Astros 5-2 on Saturday night.
Polanco homered for the fifth time in 11 games, and Miguel Sanó and Ben Rortvedt each drove in runs with doubles to back Berríos (7-2) in his ninth consecutive start without a loss.
“He was pounding the zone and literally not shying away from the hitters at all,” said Rortvedt, who was behind the plate as Berríos completed at least seven innings for the third time in six turns.
The exuberant and indefatigable right-hander had his fastball hopping, with eight strikeouts against the hardest team to whiff in baseball. The Astros, who lead MLB in batting average, runs and several other offensive measures, managed only five hits and one walk against Berríos, whose 52 wins since the start of the 2017 season are tied for the sixth most in the majors.
“I’m proud of my work. I work so hard to go out there and pitch as many innings as I can. Obviously, when I do what I did tonight, I feel really happy,” said Berríos, who has never been more valuable to the Twins with the injuries and struggles besetting most of the rest of the rotation.
Kyle Tucker and Robel García hit back-to-back home runs in the seventh, but Berríos and the Twins entered with a four-run cushion. Berríos ended four innings with strikeouts, skipping off the mound on his way to the dugout to get the season-high crowd of 18,767 at Target Field going.
“I do that naturally. I don’t want to be a hassle with anybody. Just enjoying my game and having fun out there,” Berríos said.
The fans were just as fired up to jeer Jose Altuve — chanting “Cheater! Cheater! Cheater!” — and the Astros for the sign-stealing scandal, which was revealed after the 2019 season. When the Astros played here in the 2020 postseason, the coronavirus pandemic kept the gates closed.
Taylor Rogers pitched a perfect ninth inning for his sixth save, after Hansel Robles turned in a hitless eighth.
Astros starter Luis Garcia (5-4) gave up a career-high four runs in 4 1/3 innings to snap his five-start winning streak, raising the question about whether he'll stay in the rotation.
“We've needed him to go relatively deep in ballgames, and the young man has pitched very well,” manager Dusty Baker said.
Despite Garcia allowing only six runs in 29 innings over his last five turns, Lance McCullers is due back soon from a sore shoulder. Baker said he'd consider a temporary six-man rotation, with 20 games in 20 days. starting on Monday.
“I just want to help the team, if it’s in the reliever role or the starter role. If I deserve it? I don’t know. I just have to do my job,” Garcia said.
One of the runs against Garcia was unearned, thanks to a passed ball by catcher Martín Maldonado on a swinging strike three to start the fifth. Nick Gordon used his speed to reach base on the miscue, then stole second to spark the three-run frame.
Gordon has five steals without being caught, in 10 career games. Maldonado had thrown out seven of 15 attempted stealers entering the night.
“He’s proven that he’s a good, smart, aggressive baserunner with good instincts,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said.
Astros: Jason Castro (sore Achilles) started a Triple-A rehab assignment Friday, catching five innings without trouble. “No news is good news,” Baker said.
Twins: CF Byron Buxton (hip strain) and LF/2B/3B Luis Arraez (shoulder strain), among the 12 players on the injured list, each played across the river on Saturday for Triple-A St. Paul with their return to the Twins nearly imminent.
Astros: LHP Framber Valdez (2-0, 1.47 ERA) pitches Sunday to conclude a nine-game road trip. Valdez pitched five scoreless relief innings against the Twins for the victory in Game 1 of their AL wild-card series last year.
Twins: RHP Michael Pineda (3-3, 3.46 ERA) takes the mound for the matinee and series finale. Pineda is 3-4 with a 5.06 ERA in nine career starts against the Astros.
More AP MLB coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports