The Minnesota Twins failed to gain any separation in the wild-card chase after playing five games against the American League’s worst team earlier this week, but they got their weekend started off on the right foot against another cellar-dweller. The Twins continue their eight-game road trip Saturday when they visit the Blue Jays for the second of three contests in Toronto.
Minnesota began its trek this week by losing three of five to the Chicago White Sox, but Byron Buxton’s bat (3-for-5, two RBIs) and glove (a diving catch on the warning track in the eighth inning with two runners on) played key roles in Friday’s 6-1 series-opening victory. In addition to stopping a seven-game losing streak in Toronto that dated back to June 11, 2014, the Twins maintained their one-half game lead in the AL wild-card chase with the victory. The Blue Jays (60-68) continued their freefall with their sixth loss in their last seven outings but still remain only six games back of Minnesota despite falling eight games under .500. Toronto left 11 runners on base Friday and has scored only one run over its last two contests after clubbing six homers in Wednesday’s 7-6 win over Tampa Bay.
TV: 1:07 p.m. ET, FSN North (Minnesota), TVA Sports (Toronto), Sportsnet (Toronto)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Twins RH Dillon Gee (1-0, 2.84 ERA) vs. Blue Jays RH Marco Estrada (5-8, 5.07)
Gee solidified a spot in the rotation in his fifth appearance and first start since signing with Minnesota in June, holding the White Sox to one run on two hits over six innings to get the win Monday. The 31-year-old Texan is 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA since making his Twins debut on Aug. 3, allowing only 13 hits and two walks in 18 2/3 frames. Jose Bautista is 3-for-7 with a home run versus Gee, who is 1-0 with a 4.26 ERA in two career starts against the Blue Jays.
Estrada turned in his fourth quality start in the last five outings in Sunday’s no-decision in Chicago, permitting three runs on five hits over six innings to the Cubs. The Long Beach State product issued only one free pass in the outing, halting an 11-start stretch in which he walked at least four batters seven times and averaged 3.6. Estrada fanned nine over eight strong innings in a no-decision in his only turn versus the Twins last season and is 1-2 with a 4.23 ERA in eight appearances (six starts) against Minnesota.
1. The Twins’ 14 wins since Aug. 6 are the most in the majors over that span.
2. Toronto 1B Justin Smoak accounted for the club’s only run Friday with his 35th homer, breaking a tie with Jose Cruz Jr. for the most by a switch hitter in a single season in team history.
3. Friday marked only the second time Minnesota has defeated the Blue Jays in their last 12 meetings.
PREDICTION: Twins 5, Blue Jays 2