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Royce Rolls Over Blue Jays in Game 1 of the Wild Card

Two home runs from Twins rookie ends Minnesota’s long Postseason losing streak

MLB: Wildcard-Toronto Blue Jays at Minnesota Twins
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Twins short stop Royce Lewis (23) celebrates after hitting a home run in the third inning against the Toronto Blue Jays during game one of the Wildcard series for the 2023 MLB playoffs at Target Field.
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Blue Jays 1 @ Twins 3

Before the first game of the 2023 Wild Card, many Blue Jays fans may not have known the name Royce Lewis, but he quickly became the main character Tuesday evening, notching two home runs off of Blue Jays ace Kevin Gausman. The Twins rookie, who just came off of the disabled list with a hamstring strain, looked like he missed no time, driving in all three runs for Minnesota in their 3-1 win over Toronto.

Gausman had a rough start; another rough start against the Twins this year. It was apparent from early on that he did not have sharp fastball command and that Twins batters were refusing to offer at his splitter. There was some chatter that Gausman was possibly tipping, but his stuff wasn’t good enough to really drive Minnesota to chase. He walked Canadian Edouard Julien to start the bottom of the first and then missed his location with a 3-2 inside fastball to Lewis who deposited it into the left field stands for a 2-0 lead. Lewis then made it 3-0 with a leadoff homer to centre-right on a middle-middle fastball.

Twins starter Pablo López pitched well, not allowing a run until the sixth inning despite the Jays getting on base every inning he pitched other than the third. He was backed up by a great catch by centrefielder Michael A. Taylor on an Alejandro Kirk blooper in the second and a fantastic barehanded scoop by Carlos Correa on a Kevin Kiermaier infield single to get Bo Bichette at the plate. Bichette probably should not have gone home—and third base coach Luis Rivera tried to hold him—but it took a perfect play to get him out.

With a warmed-and-ready Tim Mayza looking in from the Blue Jays bullpen, Gausman showed why he is ace material by striking out Minnesota’s 7-8-9 hitters to end his day on a somewhat happier note. In his four innings pitched, Gausman gave up three hits, three earned runs, and three walks on five strikeouts. The fifth saw Erik Swanson and Mayza let a couple of Twins on base but they were eventually stranded.

In the top of the sixth, Bichette singled to centre against López, advanced to second on a walk to Kirk, and scored on an opposite-field single by Kiermaier for the Blue Jays’ first run, knocking out López. Fireballer Louie Varland of Saint Paul was brought in to face Matt Chapman, who has had trouble with high velocity all season, but Chapmany clobbered a 98-mph heater all the way to the right-centre field wall where Taylor squeezed it for the third out. In thirteen major league ballparks, Chappy would have recorded a three-run home run.

Chad Green and a visibly excited Génesis Cabrera combined for two perfect innings but Jordan Hicks made it interesting for Twins fans and terrifying for Blue Jays fans in the bottom of the eighth by loading the bases before he struck out Willi Castro to keep the score 3-0.

Fireballer closer Johan Duran sprinted in for the Twins in the ninth and quickly dispatched Kiermaier (on three straight curveballs!) and Chapman on a couple of curves. Whit Merrifield, who had pinched hit for Daulton Varsho in the seventh, then walked, bringing up George Springer as the potential tying run. On the first pitch, Springer lined a 101-mph fastball between first and second, but Donovan Solano was perfectly positioned to field it and throw it to Duran at first to end the game and the Twins’ 18-game postseason losing streak.

Toronto outhit Minnesota 6 to 5 but the Twins outhomered the Jays 2 to 0.

Jays of the Day! None.

Suckage Jays: Kevin Gausman (-.145 WPA), Cavan Biggio (-.129)

The Blue Jays face elimination on Wednesday, with José Berríos facing Sonny Gray at 4:38 pm Eastern. Can they also end a long postseason losing streak? We will find out soon enough.