MINNEAPOLIS -- Jose Berrios just needed a big pitch in the sixth inning as he attempted to get out of a bases-loaded jam with a two-run lead. He was ahead in the count 1-2 thanks to a curveball that broke down and away from Ronny Rodriguez as he swung and missed.
Berrios went to the curveball again, a pitch he employed more on Friday than in recent starts. Catcher Jason Castro set up for another curve to break down and away from Rodriguez.
But this time, Berrios threw the ball up and on the inner half of the plate.
And 420 feet later, the Twins were headed for a bad loss.
Rodriguez hit his first career grand slam, the spark plug of a 9-6 victory in the opening game of a weekend series. The trouble extended the baffling run of recent starts by Berrios. The All-Star and staff ace has not resembled himself all month, with Rodriguez's dinger trumpeting his troubles.
In 5 1/3 innings on Friday, Berrios gave up five runs, 10 hits and two walks with five strikeouts. His 20 earned runs in August are the highest of any month this season. The six home runs and 10 walks tie for the most of any month this season. And he's failed to pitch six innings in three of his four August outings.
In recent starts, Berrios had increased the number of two-seamed fastballs, also called sinkers, in an attempt to give hitters something with more movement. It gave the impression that his fastball velocity was down when it really wasn't. In each of his last two starts, he reared back in the fifth inning and threw a four-seamed fastball at 95 miles per hour.
On Friday, Berrios backed off the two-seamer. The curveball was used the most of any pitch -- 31 times. After throwing 24, 30, 28 and 31 sinkers in his four previous outings, he threw just 19 on Friday.
But pitch placement is different than pitch usage. If it's around the center of the plate it will get smoked. And it sounded at times in Friday that Berrios wasn't pitching well.
The Twins gave him a 3-0 lead behind an RBI double by Nelson Cruz in the first, a solo home run by Miguel Sano in the second and a home run by Jake Cave in the fifth. Berrios was working on a shutout, but was laboring some. Detroit hitters had fouled off a whopping 23 pitches. Niko Goodrum fouled off five himself during an 11-pitch at bat in the first inning. Also, six batted balls by the Tigers had an exit velocity of at least 100 miles an hour.