BOSTON — The upstart first-place Minnesota Twins, fresh off a three-game road sweep of the Cleveland Indians that included two shutouts, roar into Fenway Park for a four-game series that opens Monday night with a marquee pitching matchup.
Jose Berrios, who has won seven of his eight 2017 starts, goes against Red Sox ace Chris Sale in the series opener.
It was just last weekend that the Twins lost all four games at home to those Indians, who moved into first place in the American League Central. But Minnesota’s 4-0 win behind Ervin Santana on Sunday completed the sweep in Cleveland — by a combined 13-2 — and moved the Twins back into first place.
“We’ll enjoy this tonight and then get ready for a big series in Beantown,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said after the Sunday game.
While the Twins are back in first, the Red Sox are a percentage point out in the East after losing three of their last four, including two of three over the weekend to the Los Angeles Angels at Fenway. They are just 4-6 in their past 10 games.
However, now they have Sale, who has won eight of his past nine decisions and comes into this game with a 9-3 record and a 2.85 ERA.
“He’s invaluable,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said, “(for) the way he’s pitched, the number of innings he’s pitched and the quality of the innings that he has contributed.”
Sale beat the Twins on May 7 in Minnesota. The Red Sox took two of three in that series, scoring 28 runs in the two wins, 31 in the series.
Sale did not dominate the Twins when he was in the Central Division with the Chicago White Sox. This year’s win makes him 9-6 with a 4.37 ERA and two saves in 25 games against Minnesota, 17 of them starts.
Berrios (7-1, 2.67 ERA) is pitching well in June, having allowed two runs in each of his four starts, all wins. He has 26 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings this month as he prepares to face the Red Sox for the first time in his promising career.
“I am attacking hitters right now with my curveball every time I am ahead of the count,” said Berrios, who was just 3-7 with a whopping 8.02 ERA in 14 starts last season. “I like to mix it up with my fastball, curveball and changeup. That idea is the key. Throw strikes, first-pitch strikes.”
Sale went 8 1/3 innings last Tuesday in a win at Kansas City, giving up three runs on four hits while retiring 19 straight hitters at one point. He also fanned 10, his 10th double-digit strikeout outing of his first year with his new team — tops all-time among Red Sox starters prior to the All-Star break.
The Twins come into this series 23-9 on the road, the second-best road record in baseball. Last year, when they lost 103 games, they won 29 games on the road in the entire season.
Brian Dozier is 11-for-38 (.289) with three homers and 11 RBIs against Sale, while Eddie Rosario is 5-for-8 (.625), Miguel Sano is 6-for-12 and Chris Gimenez 3-for-6 with a homer. Joe Mauer is just 8-for-39 (.205) with 10 strikeouts, while Kennys Vargas is 2-for-12 (.167) with seven strikeouts and Byron Buxton 3-for-13 (.231) with seven K’s off the skinny left-hander.
“We’re finding ways to manufacture runs when we have to, and our pitching (in the Cleveland series) was phenomenal,” Dozier said Sunday. “We’re going to Boston with our confidence as high as it has ever been.”
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