A couple of extras from the Twins’ fifth consecutive victory (dating back to 2015) against the Cardinals:
The image of Fernando Rodney trudging off the field at Yankee Stadium, after giving up Gary Sanchez’s walk-off home run, may stick with some fans. But that’s not the Rodney that Paul Molitor has seen since that day.
Rodney retired all three hitters he faced in the ninth inning on Tuesday, the eighth consecutive scoreless inning he has pitched, and he converted his sixth consecutive save opportunity.
But he’s not really doing anything different, Molitor protested.
“I wasn’t making excuses [for him] early. I don’t think things were really going his way, even when he made pitches,” Molitor said. “The home run in New York was a 96, 97-mph fastball, up and in to a hitter, where he was trying to go. He had a bad hop in Tampa Bay. He’s throwing strikes, walks haven’t been a major issue, and the changeup seems to be gaining some momentum in terms of how he’s using it, and his confidence in throwing it.”
Rodney has walked five batters in his last eight outings, still too high, especially since he has only four strikeouts in those innings. But he’s surrendered only two hits, both singles, and has seemed stronger by the day. His ERA, 6.75 once Sanchez’s homer landed, is down to 3.07 today.
“His fastball, he threw the first one 89 [mph] tonight, and then he hit 95 later on,” Molitor marveled. “I just think he has a really good idea of how to approach each hitter he faces.”
Jose Berrios didn’t use a curveball in the first inning. He didn’t need to, not with a 96-mph fastball to rely upon.
“Those first four batters, I felt like my fastball was working well,” the 24-year-old righthander said. “I didn’t feel like I had to go to my curveball.”
When he did, though, he found one better and sharper than he’s had in a month. The reason? Simple: Practice.
“I was working between my last start and this one on my curveball,” Berrios said through an interpreter. “Today, the result was there.”
His catcher agreed. “A couple of days ago, we were working on it in the bullpen, really driving that breaking ball in the [strike] zone and getting it deep in the zone,” said Bobby Wilson, who caught a Berrios start for the first time Tuesday. “It got sharper as the night went on. But him pitching with his fastball set all that up. Him pitching and dotting the outside corner really set up his breaking ball, so he could get away with maybe a couple that weren’t as sharp. But overall, the majority of them looked pretty good.”