MINNEAPOLIS -- One common thread among the three electric starts turned in by Twins right-hander Jose Berrios since getting called up from Triple-A Rochester on May 13, was his ability to get ahead of hitters and locate his pitches for strikes.
Berrios had improved his first-pitch strike rate from last year's 55.2 percent to 65.8 percent, while throwing 65.9 percent of his pitches for strikes, making him look like a different pitcher than in 2016, when he posted an 8.02 ERA in 14 starts as a rookie.
But the 23-year-old's command troubles came back at an inopportune time for the Twins on Tuesday, as they were coming off their two roughest losses of the year when Berrios allowed a season-high four runs on five hits and four walks over five innings in a 7-2 loss to the Astros.
Berrios threw first-pitch strikes to 11 of the 23 batters he faced (47.8 percent), while throwing 63 of his 104 pitches for strikes (60.6 percent). And against a tough Astros lineup, it was too much to overcome despite pitching his way out of a few jams.
"It's tough, especially with a lineup like that," said Berrios, who fell to 3-1 with a 2.70 ERA. "But I never lost my confidence. I tried to compete every pitch. That happens. It's one bad night. You have to erase it and get on to the next one."
Berrios was hurt by his four walks and also hit Marwin Gonzalez with a pitch to open the third, with Gonzalez ending up coming around to score on a sacrifice fly. He walked two straight batters to load the bases with nobody out in the fourth, but escaped the jam with a run-scoring double play despite falling behind Brian McCann, 3-0, and a strikeout of Gonzalez.
"He didn't have his great command, but I told him I was proud of him," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "When he didn't have his command in the past, it was explosive. I thought he contained pretty well tonight. He got the double play on McCann."
Berrios suffered some tough luck, as Altuve jumped on a first-pitch curveball that took a bad hop past third baseman Ehire Adrianza on a potential double-play ball to allow two runs to score. But it was the two hits after falling behind and the walk that led to the situation.
"Unfortunately, that ball scooted past Adrianza," Molitor said. "We had a chance to get out of that even. He created some opportunities with the hit batsman to open the inning and the walks. It wasn't anything major like they were hitting him all over the park, but they made him pay and made him work."
Berrios, though, was in good spirits after the game, as it was proof that he's learning how to pitch when he lacks command.
"I didn't have my command but I tried to do my best every inning," Berrios said. "I tried to hold the game so our team had a chance to win. It didn't happen but I still feel great. I have to make corrections from that game and adjust next time."