Jose Berrios made his first start as an All-Star on Monday, and afterward, there was plenty of room for second-guessing the choices that went into the American League team.
Not about why Berrios made it. About why a couple of teammates didn’t.
Berrios lived up to his newly bestowed title of All-Star by bewitching Royals hitters for seven innings, particularly when runners reached scoring position. The 24-year-old righthander limited Kansas City to six hits and no walks, surrendered only one run, and even picked off a runner for the first time since 2016, leading the Twins to their fifth consecutive victory, 3-1 over the Royals at Target Field.
“It feels weird when I hear it — ‘Jose Berrios is an All-Star,’ ” he said. “But I’m proud of it.”
While Berrios held down the Royals offense, Eddie Rosario and Eduardo Escobar, each of whom had hopes of, and cases for, inclusion in next Tuesday’s game, came through with clutch at-bats that turned into runs and handed Kansas City its 28th loss in its past 33 games.
Rosario, the subject of the Twins’ “Will you accept this Rosie?” promotion in the final-five vote for a spot on the team, fought off several pitches from lefthanded sidearmer Tim Hill before hitting a slow roller to third base, scoring Jake Cave with the tying run. After Brian Dozier walked, Escobar, left off the team despite leading the league in doubles, lined a single to center to score Joe Mauer with the go-ahead run.
Escobar also made a brilliant defensive play that prevented a couple of runs, snagging a hot smash by Rosell Herrera and turning it into an out. The stuff of an All-Star, right?
“Yeah, there’s no doubt about it —  extra-base hits, that’s what jumps out,” manager Paul Molitor agreed about his third baseman. And Rosario? “He fouled some tough ones off. And he put it in play and got a guy in scoring position as well as plating a run.”
The Twins also got a run-scoring single from Mauer, a six-time All-Star, and a save from Fernando Rodney, who has pitched in three All-Star games. Rodney’s save was his 20th, making him the sixth closer in big-league history to reach that mark in a season after his 41st birthday.
But the night belonged to Berrios, who received a hearty ovation worthy of an All-Star as he took the mound. He quickly became locked into a duel with Royals lefthander Danny Duffy, who pitched six scoreless innings and left with the lead.
That’s because Berrios briefly stumbled, giving up back-to-back doubles from Alex Gordon and Alcides Escobar to open the second inning, surrendering a run. He didn’t allow another ball to leave the infield that inning.
And the fourth inning was a masterwork in evading trouble. Mike Moustakas was hit by a pitch, and Salvador Perez — he will be in Washington, too — doubled, sending Moustakas to third. But working carefully, Berrios struck out Lucas Duda looking on a chest-high fastball, a call that so incensed Royals manager Ned Yost, he came out to argue with umpire Will Little and earned an ejection.
After the delay, Berrios got Herrera to bounce a ball to third base, where Escobar snagged it as it bounced past, freezing the runners as he threw Herrera out. And Gordon grounded out to first, ending the threat. Kansas City was 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position vs. Berrios.
“He’s got the confidence he can make pitches to try to minimize,” Molitor said. “It’s not too often when you get a zero after second-and-third, nobody out. But you make pitches, you don’t get rattled.”
Twins 3, Kansas City 1 Tuesday: 7:10 p.m. (FSN)