MINNEAPOLIS -- What a difference one day can make.
Carrying the cloud of their 18-game postseason losing streak into this American League Wild Card Series, the Twins finally broke free of history with a 3-1 win over the Blue Jays and immediately put themselves on the doorstep of their first postseason series win since 2002 and a date with the Astros in the AL Division Series.
The suddenness of it all cut in the other direction against the Blue Jays, who are already fighting for their postseason lives. That won’t be made any easier by the raucous crowd at Target Field, which wore on the visitors and starter Kevin Gausman in Game 1, earning the praise of the Twins’ players and coaching staff following the win.
“I thought the place was going to split open and melt, like, honestly,” said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli. “It was out of this universe out there on the field. The fans took over the game. They helped us win today. They helped us win the game, and they helped us in so many ways out there. You could see it, if you were just visually watching and seeing how the players were reacting on the other side of the field.”
Tuesday’s hero was Royce Lewis, who became just the third player in AL/NL history to go deep in his first two career postseason at-bats, despite not having played since Sept. 19 with a hamstring injury. This broke the game open for the Twins, and coming into Game 2 with another excellent pitching matchup, one more big blow might be all it takes to clinch -- or end -- this Wild Card Series.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Wednesday’s Game 2.
When is the game and how can I watch it?
First pitch is set for 4:38 p.m. ET/3:38 p.m. CT on Wednesday, and it will be televised in the U.S. on ESPN. In Canada, the games will be aired on Sportsnet with the radio call available on Sportsnet 590 THE FAN.
All series are available in the US on MLB.TV with authentication to a participating Pay TV provider. Games are available live internationally (except in Canada). Full game archives will be available approximately 90 minutes after the game ends.
Blue Jays: José Berríos starred for the Twins for six seasons before he was dealt to the Blue Jays, and he is back trying to accomplish something he couldn’t do in Minneapolis before: win a postseason game. Berríos bouncing back from a rough 2022 season has been one of the stories of the season for Toronto, as he’s returned to being the rock-solid starter Twins fans knew and loved. But manager John Schneider and the Blue Jays won’t hesitate for a second to go to the bullpen if Berríos falters. This game will be managed aggressively.
Twins: Think Pablo López was impressive in Game 1? Sonny Gray was even better in the regular season. Gray, the Game 2 starter, had the second-best WAR in the American League among pitchers -- one spot ahead of presumed AL Cy Young favorite Gerrit Cole -- and finished second in the league in ERA (2.79) behind Cole. That ERA and innings-pitched mark (184) were Gray’s best since 2015 after he focused his offseason on his durability. When it comes to a playoff start, this could be a meaningful stat: his eight homers allowed this season were the fewest ever by a qualified Minnesota starter in a full-length season.
What are the starting lineups?
Blue Jays: This lineup didn’t do enough in Game 1, but that’s because of the at-bats, not the batting order. Pablo López was excellent and Gray represents just as steep a challenge, so the Blue Jays will need to find a way to string some hits together in a hurry. This offense isn’t built to come back from big deficits, so scoring early will be a major priority.
Twins: Lewis was clearly not running at full speed amid all of his Game 1 heroics, so it figures that he’ll be the designated hitter again. Polanco had a rough game at third base, but Baldelli affirmed faith in his veteran playing out of position at the hot corner.
How will the bullpens line up after the starter?
Blue Jays: All hands on deck. If your name isn’t Kevin Gausman, you’re an option for the Blue Jays on Wednesday.
This includes starters Chris Bassitt and Yusei Kikuchi, both of whom could be in line to start if Toronto can extend this to a deciding Game 3. The Blue Jays needed to use five relievers in Game 1, and while Jordan Hicks won’t be the freshest after throwing 25 pitches, all of them should be available in a win-or-go-home Game 2. Chad Green was particularly impressive over his 1 1/3 innings, so Schneider can go back to that well. Canadian closer Jordan Romano is also ready to roll after not being used in Game 1.
Twins: Here’s how many pitches each of the Twins’ relievers threw in Game 1: Louie Varland: 2; Caleb Thielbar: 10; Griffin Jax : 8; Jhoan Duran: 14. Given how meticulously Minnesota planned its pitchers’ rest schedules to close the regular season, everyone will be available again.
Game 1 represented the Twins’ ideal pitching plan: Starter (López) to bridge man (Varland) to high-leverage core (Thielbar, Jax, Duran). Expect more of the same, with Chris Paddack and Kenta Maeda standing by as bridge options in the event of a short start from Gray.
Any injuries of note?
Blue Jays: This is still one of the healthiest teams in the Majors. Catcher Danny Jansen is trying to work his way back from a fractured finger he suffered on Sept. 1, but the Blue Jays will need to get there first. Entering Game 2, there are no red flags.
Twins: Lewis was clearly jogging around the basepaths and not going full-bore, so expect him to be very measured in his running ability again. Alex Kirilloff got spiked by George Springer in his surgically repaired right wrist on a very awkward first play of Game 1, but he said after the game that he was feeling fine.
Who’s hot, who’s not?
Blue Jays: Kevin Kiermaier had a fine Game 1, going 2-for-3 with a walk and the Blue Jays’ lone RBI. He keeps making contact and has crushed fastballs all season. The Blue Jays also got two hits from Bo Bichette, and while Matt Chapman’s line only shows a 1-for-4 day, he was inches away from an extra-base hit off the wall that could have scored at least one run. The Blue Jays will need more from the grizzled postseason veterans at the top of their lineup, though, as George Springer and Brandon Belt combined to go 0-for-9.
Twins: That Royce Lewis fellow can sure swing the bat -- not that Twins fans or Blue Jays fans need to be reminded of it. Though the bats were mostly quiet in the late innings of Game 1, most of the Twins’ lineup was hot in September, with the exception of Michael A. Taylor in his return from injury (he went 1-for-3 in Game 1) and Christian Vázquez (who might not start). Notably, Gray has also been hot on the mound, with a 2.03 ERA since the beginning of August.