TORONTO — When the season began, the Twins expected José Berríos to be pitching important innings in the middle of a playoff hunt this September.
They just never would have expected that it would be against them, not for them, a practically unfathomable idea in March when the Twins broke camp in Fort Myers, Florida, ready to defend their consecutive division titles.
Instead, prospects Austin Martin and Simeon Woods Richardson, whom the Twins acquired when they traded Berríos ahead of the deadline in July, are expected to be part of the Twins’ next contending teams. And Berríos, well he’s an important part of the Blue Jays’ present, trying to help pitch them to a Wild Card berth.
In his first start against his former team — Berríos is expected to make another start against the Twins later this week — the former Twins all-star threw 6 2/3 as the Blue Jays beat the Twins 5-3 on Sunday afternoon at the Rogers Centre.
“Things don’t always go according to the plan that you lay out. You have to do what’s best, even if that’s not something you planned for,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Obviously we had to make some very difficult decisions this year, this being one of the biggest ones. … I never would have guessed that this season we would have been facing José on the other side of the field, but here we are.”
Here they are, watching Berríos to do them what they’ve seen him to do so many other offenses over the course of his major league career.
Berríos turned in a quality start against his former teammates, allowing three runs on four hits while striking out six. He has posted a 3.39 earned-run average in the 10 games he’s started since the trade, giving the Blue Jays everything they could have hoped for.
But perhaps Sunday’s game was the most fun for the starter, who initially said earlier this weekend that he was hoping not face the Twins (65-85) on Sunday.
He made sure to acknowledge his former teammates in-game while on the mound.
“All day long, from the first pitch of the game to the last one, I never feel like, ‘Oh, I want to beat this guy,’” Berríos said. “I try and enjoy the day. I’ve never had a day like that before, obviously. Now I faced it and it was fun.”
Maybe a little less fun for his former teammates, though some of them had some success off him.
Longtime former teammate Byron Buxton — the two were both drafted in 2012 — collected a double off Berríos in his first at-bat. Miguel Sanó doubled, too, and Nick Gordon drove in a pair of runs with a double in the fourth. Catcher Ben Rortvedt homered in the seventh, spelling the end of the day for Berríos.
Berríos got plenty of run support from his Blue Jays (84-65) teammates, who gave him a five-spot in the first inning. Luke Farrell, starting a bullpen game for the Twins, struck out George Springer to begin the game. The next seven batters all collected a hit — including a Bo Bichette two-run home run — and five runs scored before he recorded three outs.
While the Twins did score three runs off Berríos to come within striking distance, they could never recover from the early deficit as the Blue Jays captured the series finale.
“I don’t feel like any pressure, like I have to beat them because they are the team that I played before, no I don’t got that in mind,” Berríos said. “They are my friends. They still will be special in my life. So I just enjoyed this afternoon and the game.”