CHICAGO – Jose Berrios is a stay-at-home kind of guy. He used the Twins’ final road game of the 2020 regular season to try to keep it that way.
Berrios shut out the Cubs for six innings, Max Kepler hit his first home run in almost four weeks, and Josh Donaldson contributed two hits and the game’s biggest defensive play. It added up to a 4-0 victory at Wrigley Field, a win that moves the Twins back into a home-field-advantage spot in the AL playoff seeding.
The Yankees’ 10-game winning streak ended with a 10-2 loss in Boston on Sunday, and the Twins took advantage, moving one game ahead of New York in the battle for the best record among second-place teams, which comes with the right to host the entire best-of-three first-round series next week.
They also moved within two games of the first-place White Sox, though catching and passing them will be a challenge with only five games remaining, especially since Chicago holds the tie-breaker by virtue of a better record against AL Central teams.
Of course, if Berrios pitches the way he did Sunday — the way he has throughout September, for that matter — it may not matter where the games are. Berrios outdued Yu Darvish, a prominent NL Cy Young candidate, by forcing Cubs hitters to pop the ball harmlessly into the air. Berrios recorded eight outs in the air, and finished his fifth win of the year by retiring the final nine batters he faced.
The Cubs — who managed only two runs off Twins pitching in the entire three-game series — put only three runners into scoring position all night, and Berrios squelched each threat. When a pair of singles in the third inning wound up putting runners on second and third with only one out, Berrios struck out Kris Bryant on a curveball that dove toward the dirt, then got Cameron Maybin to ground to short.
An inning later, Willson Contreras’ leadoff double was neutralized by Donaldson’s smart play. Contreras moved to third on Jason Heyward’s ground out, and he tried to score when Javy Baez hit a sharp grounder to the Twins’ third baseman. Donaldson made a strong and accurate throw home on the run, and Mitch Garver tagged Contreras out.
The six shutout innings improved Berrios to 6-4 on the season and 3-0 in September, with a 2.05 ERA in his four starts.
The Twins, facing Darvish for the first time since 2014, scored a couple of runs early. Kepler singled to open the game, Donaldson drew a walk, and Eddie Rosario singled Kepler home. An inning later, Jake Cave led off with a deep fly the opposite way into the left field corner, and he raced around to third base for his second triple of the season. After a strikeout, Kepler grounded the ball to first baseman Anthony Rizzo, and Cave scored.
Darvish then went into Cy Young form, allowing only two hits over the next four innings. But he tired in the seventh, and the Twins quickly expanded their lead. Marwin Gonzalez led off with a double off the center field ivy, snapping a personal 0-for-12 regular-season streak against the Japanese righthander dating back to 2013. (Gonzalez did collect a pair of critical hits off Darvish in the 2017 World Series.)
Kepler followed by crushing a cutter from Darvish onto the tarp covering the right-field bleachers, his eighth home run of the season but first since Aug. 26.
That left it up to the Twins’ bullpen, and Trevor May, Taylor Rogers and Sergio Romo delivered — though Romo loaded the bases in the ninth, thanks partly to a passed-ball-third-strike — extending Minnesota’s streak of scoreless relief innings to nine, including all eight here this weekend.
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