Jose Berrios made it appear as if a trampoline were underneath the mound.
Every inning he ended with a strikeout — there were four of them — the pitcher sprung himself into the air, usually accompanied by a fist pump or shout. It seemed sometimes that he was midair before catcher Ben Rortvedt had even closed his glove around the ball. That's how sure Berrios was of his arm.
In a season in which reliable starting pitchers are scarce for the Twins, Berrios has emerged as the guiding light, and his steady hand led the team to a 5-2 victory over the Houston Astros on Saturday in front of 18,767 Target Field fans.
"Some games, we've had a tough game, and we had to battle all day long," Berrios said of his exuberance. "But [Saturday], we are pitching well, and I just enjoyed my moment."
Berrios held Houston scoreless through six innings, allowing just three hits. And while his outing wasn't perfect — he made a throwing error on a pickoff attempt and a couple of his called strikes were a bit generous — his enthusiasm was needed for the 26-38 Twins.
That spread to rookie catcher Rortvedt, who gushed about how many Houston batters Berrios caught looking.
"We were rolling," Rortvedt said. "... I don't think I got shook off a lot. He had a lot of confidence in me, and I love that. He threw everything with conviction. It was a lot of fun."
Berrios did falter in his seventh and final inning, giving up back-to-back home runs on early counts to Kyle Tucker and Robel Garcia. Even though the Astros had been extending at-bats all game, Berrios said he knew they would come out more aggressive when trailing 4-0. His changeup to Tucker he chalked up to a good swing, but on the second homer he didn't quite throw his fastball in enough.
Berrios' offense gave him some rare run support. Jorge Polanco led the effort, going 3-for-4, including a two-run homer to the upper deck videoboards in the fifth and an RBI single in the seventh. Miguel Sano hit an RBI double off the center field wall in the fourth, and Rortvedt added an RBI double in the fifth.
Coming off Friday's loss to the Astros — when the Twins came in with a short bullpen and struggled because of it — Berrios completing seven innings and allowed manager Rocco Baldelli to trot out his best relievers for one inning each. In the eighth, Hansel Robles retired Jose Altuve and walked Michael Brantley but induced a double-play grounder from Alex Bregman. Taylor Rogers pitched a one-two-three ninth, striking out two.
"There's some pride there in picking us up and leading us out onto the field," Baldelli said of Berrios. "... An effort like that helps upstairs. It helps you with your bullpen. Any time a guy puts you on his shoulders and goes out there and pitches like that, it's big. And he's done that a good bit for us this year."
Berrios entered the season No. 2 in the rotation behind Kenta Maeda, who hasn't repeated his 2020 form and is on the injured list. J.A. Happ is the only other starter to have performed with some regularity, though his record is 3-2 with a 5.75 ERA compared with Berrios' 7-2 record and 3.49 ERA.
"I feel really sad because I don't want my other teammates [to suffer]," Berrios said. "I've been healthy so far. I just have to keep doing my thing. ... But I don't take that for [granted] because I am human. I understand what happens in our clubhouse.
"The only thing I can control is come to the ballpark, work hard and be able to pitch a game like [Saturday]."