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What to know for the Blue Jays-Twins series

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After clinching an American League wild card over the weekend, the Toronto Blue Jays are back in the post-season for the second year in a row and the third time in four years. They’ll face the AL Central division champion Minnesota Twins in a best-of-three series starting Tuesday afternoon.

Here are some basics to get you ready for the Jays-Twins matchup:

It’s all happening in Minnesota. As the higher-seeded team, the No. 3 Twins get to host every game against No. 6 Toronto. The first two games will take place Tuesday and Wednesday at 4:38 p.m. ET. Game 3, if necessary, will be Thursday afternoon.

It looks like a tossup. Despite being the road team, the Blue Jays (89-73) actually won two more games than the Twins this year. But the winners of each division get the higher seeds, and the Twins had the great fortune of playing in the AL Central, where all four of the other teams had a losing record. Toronto finished third in the cutthroat AL East, where the last-place team (Boston) finished with the same 78-84 record as the second-place team in the AL Central (Detroit). More evidence suggesting this series is too close to call: the Jays and Twins went 3-3 against each other this year, and the betting markets have this as the tightest of the four matchups in the wild-card round. Minnesota is the consensus favourite, but only by a very slight margin at most sportsbooks.

Something’s gotta give. The Blue Jays haven’t won a playoff game since 2016, when Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Donaldson and company reached their second consecutive AL Championship Series. In its only two post-season appearances since then, Toronto got swept in the first round by Tampa Bay (2020) and Seattle (2022). But Minnesota is mired in a much worse drought. The Twins have somehow lost 18 consecutive post-season games, a record for a major North American pro sports team, dating back to 2004.

The winner will face the World Series champs. Because the baseball playoffs follow a bracket format, we know that the winner of the Blue Jays-Twins series will take on the reigning World Series champion Houston Astros in the best-of-five second round. Houston (90-72) won the AL West and earned a first-round bye along with AL East champion Baltimore (101-61), the top seed in the AL. The Orioles will meet the winner of the series between wild cards Tampa Bay and Texas.

The Jays’ pitching has carried them. Toronto placed a mediocre 14th in the 30-team major leagues in runs scored as Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s power numbers declined for the second straight year following his near-MVP 2021. The 24-year-old managed just 26 home runs this season while his slugging percentage of .444 was his worst since his rookie year. The Jays’ other young cornerstone, shortstop Bo Bichette, had another nice year at the plate (.306 average, 20 homers) despite missing time due to injury, but it was a deep and durable pitching staff that really came through for the Jays. Ace Kevin Gausman (12-9, 3.16 ERA), Chris Bassitt (16-8, 3.60), Jose Berrios (11-12, 3.65) and Yusei Kikuchi (11-6, 3.86) all pitched effectively and made at least 31 starts (no other team had more than two pitchers reach that mark) while Canadian closer Jordan Romano (36 saves) anchored a solid bullpen that helped the Jays rank fourth in the majors in team ERA — one spot ahead of Minnesota. For this series, Kikuchi will serve as a reliever, giving manager John Schneider a formidable fireman to call in when things get hot.

The Twins get it done by committee. Minnesota led the AL with 233 home runs despite not having anyone crack the individual top 50. Max Kepler led the Twins with 24 taters, while fellow outfielders Michael Taylor and Joey Gallo had 21 apiece. Star shortstop Carlos Correa (18 homers) had a miserable year at the plate as he was bothered by plantar fasciitis. The painful foot injury kept Correa out for the final two weeks of the regular season, and it’s unclear how much the Twins will get out of him in this series. On the mound, a couple of scary starters helped Minnesota lead the majors in strikeouts (just ahead of second-place Toronto). Pablo Lopez finished second in the AL in strikeouts to Gausman, the man he’s expected to face in Game 1. Sonny Gray was second in the AL in ERA to the Yankees’ Gerrit Cole, the expected Cy Young winner. Read more about the Jays-Twins matchup here.

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