Twins catcher Chris Gimenez went to the mound for a chat after Jose Berrios fell behind 2-0 to Jacoby Ellsbury — the second batter of the game — Wednesday.
Gimenez visited again after the Yankees put two men on base with one out in the second inning. Two batters later, Berrios walked Austin Romine to load the bases, and that brought pitching coach Neil Allen out of the dugout.
“I told him to quit aiming the ball,” Allen said. “A little more forceful than that.”
The Twins tried to find the right things to say to Berrios, who was coming off four shaky outings and was threatening to extend the run to five. The turning point came when they scored six runs in the second inning, capped by Miguel Sano’s three-run homer. Berrios (9-3) then took care of the lead as the Twins handled the Yankees 6-1 before an announced crowd of 33,380 and won two of three games in the series.
The Twins never had won a series at Target Field from the Yankees, who are 21-8 there in the regular season and also have two playoff game victories. The last time the Twins had won a home series against the Yankees was in 2008 at the Metrodome.
The Yankees were the only American League team to have not lost a series at Target Field.
“When you can go out there and win against a team like the Yankees, it’s awesome,” Berrios said. “I know they have been struggling for the past few weeks but with that lineup they have, it’s a good victory.”
After Allen’s mound visit, Berrios got Ronald Torreyes to ground out to end the second — and was immediately rewarded by the Twins offense in the bottom of the inning.
Zack Granite hit a two-run single for his first major league RBI, and Eduardo Escobar added a run-scoring single. But the big blow came when Yankees lefthander Jordan Montgomery hung an 0-2 curveball to Sano that was demolished for a three-run homer and 6-0 Twins lead — the 10th time this season the Twins have scored at least six runs in an inning.
“He threw me two strikes early,” said Sano, who has 23 home runs and 66 RBI this season. “I have to be ready for any pitch, and he threw me a breaking ball.”
Berrios remembered games this season where he gave up runs right after his team scored.
“When I went out there, I didn’t want to give up the lead,” he said. “Lately, I have been doing that.”
Berrios regained his command and retired 10 of the next 11 batters. He threw only 10 pitches in the third inning and only five in the fourth as he carried a shutout into the seventh inning before the Yankees scored a run on Brett Gardner’s RBI single. In 6⅔ innings, he allowed one earned run on six hits and two walks with five strikeouts. It was the sixth time this season he has pitched at least six innings and given up two or fewer runs.
“Jose had a much better day,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “It didn’t really start that way. I think you could see some of the frustration at some of the pitches he was making the first inning-plus.”
The Twins, a half-game behind first-place Cleveland in the AL Central, saw their postseason chances increase this week after the White Sox traded third baseman Todd Frazier and relievers David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to the Yankees and the Tigers dealt outfielder J.D. Martinez to Arizona. The Twins have 21 games left against Chicago and Detroit starting Friday, when the Tigers arrive for a three-game series at Target Field.