Toronto’s José Berríos strikes out a career high in win over former Twins teammates

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TORONTO — It was 10 years ago to the day on Saturday that the Twins grabbed a talented right-hander from Puerto Rico with the No. 32 pick in the 2012 draft. Over the next decade, the Twins watched José Berríos develop from a teenager to a man, a prospect to an all-star.

His tenure in the organization came to an end last season when the Twins shipped him to Toronto ahead of the trade deadline, but the Twins had a chance to reunite with the 28-year-old on Saturday — and it didn’t go well for them.

After the first inning, Berríos settled in and turned in a vintage performance, leading the Blue Jays to a 12-3 win over the Twins on Saturday afternoon at the Rogers Centre.

“I think this was the best José Berríos that’s probably pitched in 2022,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I’m not surprised to see it against us. I’m sure he was excited to come out here and face a bunch of guys, his friends, and he showed up. He did his job today. He threw the ball very well (and) his breaking ball was a real weapon today. It was a tough day for us because of that.”

Luis Arraez and Jorge Polanco tagged their old teammate for a pair of runs in the first inning — Arraez singled and Polanco brought him home with a two-run blast — but after that, the Twins (31-24) collected just one more hit off him — a Nick Gordon double in the second — in his seven innings pitched.

Berríos, who struck out the side in the first, mowed down his former teammates in the outing, striking out a career-high 13 batters.

“He pitched a good game today,” Polanco said, noting that Berríos seemed to get better as the game went on. “We were trying to do better than what we did today. He just beat us.”

In a season that hasn’t gone as Berríos would have hoped — he entered the day with a 5.62 earned-run average after signing a seven-year, $131-million extension with the Blue Jays (31-21) in November — Berríos turned in one of his best starts of the year, rebounding after giving up six runs in a shortened start last time out.

Berríos told Blue Jays reporters that his slider was the best it has been all year, and he executed the plan of attack they had drawn up for the Twins as he wanted.

“I just tried to be the Jose Berríos, who I am, and I did it,” he said. “I just tried to concentrate, be fresh, focus pitch by pitch and I did it.”

The line Berríos put up earlier in the week — six runs in 2 1/3 innings pitched — mirrored Dylan Bundy’s on Saturday. Bundy was lifted in the third after giving up six unanswered runs — five earned.

The Twins starter said he had some of the better stuff he had had all season, but his command was not where it needed to be, and the Blue Jays sure made him pay for that.

“I felt great and didn’t execute,” Bundy said. “I think that’s just part of baseball. I had the really good stuff, the (velocity) was up and the movements were up and it doesn’t matter if you don’t execute the pitch where it’s supposed to be.”

Bundy allowed a solo home run to Bo Bichette in the first, labored through the second giving up three runs — one on a George Springer hit that slowly rolled down the third base line, another on a Jermaine Palacios error — and served up a two-run shot to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the third before eventually being lifted for Ian Hamilton.

And by the time the Twins turned the game over to the bullpen, they were trailing by four runs and Berríos had already taken command of the game.

“We’ve seen this kind of José before,” Baldelli said. “His stuff seemed like it was as good as it’s been all year long.”

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