HEADLINE

Twins look to win first playoff series since 2002, oust Blue Jays

Field Level Media

October 04, 2023 at 2:29 am.

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins finally snapped their 18-game playoff drought.

Now, the Twins will try to take it one step further and win their first postseason series in over two decades.

Minnesota will face the visiting Toronto Blue Jays in Game 2 of a best-of-three American League wild-card series on Wednesday afternoon. The Twins are coming off a 3-1 win in the series opener that was fueled by two home runs from Royce Lewis.

“I think it’s fine to celebrate that,” Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said when asked about snapping the postseason skid. “I (also) think there’s not one person in our clubhouse who doesn’t realize that there is a lot of work still to be done.”

Meanwhile, Toronto must win to extend the series to a decisive third game.

“It’s all hands on deck (Wednesday),” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said. “These guys know it’s going to take everybody to get to Game 3.”

The Twins hope it doesn’t come to that. They are looking for their first playoff series win since 2002, when they beat the Oakland Athletics in five games in the AL Division Series.

Blue Jays right-hander Jose Berrios will take the mound in Game 2. He went 11-12 with a 3.65 ERA in 32 starts this season, and he struck out 184 in 189 2/3 innings.

Berrios, 29, is no stranger to Target Field. He spent parts of his first six seasons with the Twins and made three postseason appearances (two starts), going 0-1 with a 3.75 ERA.

“I’m going to enjoy it,” Berrios said. “I’ve got my family here. I’ve got my little one, Diego, he was born in Minnesota. It’s going to be special also pitching against old friends, old teammates. …

“I love pitching in this ballpark because the dugout is so close, so I look like I throw 100.”

This will be Berrios’ sixth start against his former team. In his first five outings against Minnesota, he has gone 3-1 with a 4.03 ERA.

Twins right-hander Sonny Gray will oppose Berrios in the second game of the series. Gray went 8-8 with a 2.79 ERA in 32 starts during the regular season, and he struck out 183 in 184 innings.

The 33-year-old Gray finished strong down the stretch, posting a 1.54 ERA in his final seven starts of the regular season. He walked five and struck out 36 in 41 innings.

Gray is 4-4 with a 2.91 ERA in 15 career appearances (14 starts) against the Blue Jays. He is 0-2 with a 2.95 ERA in four career playoff starts with the Oakland Athletics and New York Yankees.

This will be Gray’s first playoff start since 2017.

“I was very fortunate early in my career,” Gray said. “I got to pitch in the playoffs. I got to taste that. …

“And then having a couple losing seasons and now having a chance to pitch in the playoffs (is so rewarding). I said this a couple of years ago, said it a couple of days ago, and I still truly believe it. It is truly, truly, truly the only reason that I am still playing this game.”

–Tom Musick, Field Level Media