By Gregory Strong in Toronto
For a few innings Friday night, it looked like the Minnesota Twins and Toronto Blue Jays were going to have a back-and-forth slugfest with the ball carrying in the spring air at Rogers Centre.
The Minnesota bullpen had other plans, completely shutting down the Toronto offence to help end the Blue Jays’ eight-game winning streak. Kyle Garlick and Jose Miranda hit two homers apiece and Byron Buxton added a two-run shot as Minnesota dumped Toronto 9-3.
Twins starter Chi Chi Gonzalez gave up homers to George Springer and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., in his three-inning season debut but the Blue Jays were held without a hit against the Twins’ relievers.
“Today was the first time that everybody struggled,” said Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo. “The pitching struggled, we didn’t really hit and that’s why we lost the game.
“But other than that, those eight games were outstanding. Everybody did something to win every game, which was pretty cool.”
It was just the fourth loss in 16 games for Toronto (30-21). The Blue Jays fell to 17-9 at Rogers Centre this season.
Minnesota (31-23), currently tops in the American League Central, ended its three-game losing skid. Jharel Cotton (1-1) worked two shutout innings for the win while Jovani Moran, Tyler Duffey, Joe Smith and Griffin Jax each tossed one inning of relief.
The Twins outhit the Blue Jays 12-4.
“We really came alive,” said Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli. “Our guys just didn’t stop and it was great to see.”
Toronto starter Yusei Kikuchi (2-2) struggled early as he gave up three straight one-out hits. A Garlick homer was sandwiched by a pair of singles as Minnesota jumped out to a 2-0 lead.
Springer answered by hitting his 49th career leadoff homer, moving him into fourth place on Major League Baseball’s all-time list. He has 10 homers this year and leads the big leagues with six leadoff blasts.
Bo Bichette followed with a double and scored on a single by Teoscar Hernandez, who extended his hitting streak to eight games.
Kikuchi gave up solo shots in each of the next two innings. Miranda restored Minnesota’s lead and Garlick went deep again for his sixth homer of the year.
Guerrero cut Minnesota’s lead to 4-3 with a laser of a solo shot in the third inning. The 421-foot homer, his team-leading 11th of the season, had a game-high exit velocity of 114.4 miles per hour.
Kikuchi lasted 4 2/3 innings, allowing seven hits and four earned runs. He had six strikeouts.
“They had a game plan and they stuck with it,” Kikuchi said via a translator. “Maybe they were looking for certain pitches in certain counts. They got it and they executed.”
Gonzalez, meanwhile, allowed four hits, three earned runs and had one strikeout.
Miranda padded the Twins’ lead in the sixth inning with a two-run shot off Trevor Richards. It was his fourth homer of the year.
Another insurance run came in the eighth against Andrew Vazquez. Nick Gordon was hit by a pitch, took second on a balk, stole third and scored on an infield single.
Buxton put the game away with his homer in the ninth inning off Jeremy Beasley. The game took three hours and two minutes to play.
Blue Jays left-hander Hyun Jin Ryu is expected to miss “multiple” weeks after an MRI exam revealed a forearm strain and elbow inflammation. Ryu was placed on the 15-day injured list Thursday.
Ross Stripling will move from the bullpen to the starting rotation while Ryu is out, manager Charlie Montoyo said before the game. Stripling covered Ryu’s starts when the southpaw was on the IL for almost a month earlier in the season.
LOOK OUT BELOW
Before Garlick hit his second homer, he launched a foul ball that landed in the 300-level press box near the left-field foul screen.
The ball hit the bicycle helmet of Associated Press reporter Ian Harrison, sending it and his sunglasses tumbling over the ledge to the seats below.
A spectator caught the helmet and put it on his head to the delight of the fans in the section. Harrison walked down moments later to give the fan the ball and gather his belongings.
Announced attendance was 27,753 on the first night of a two-day Pride Weekend celebration at Rogers Centre. “Forte — Toronto Gay Men’s Chorus” sang the national anthems.
Toronto’s Jose Berrios (3-2, 5.62 ERA) was scheduled to start Saturday against fellow right-hander Dylan Bundy (3-2, 4.76).
Kevin Gausman (5-3, 2.51) is tabbed for the three-game series finale on Sunday. The Twins will counter with southpaw Devin Smeltzer (2-0, 1.50).
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 3, 2022.
Feature image – Minnesota Twins’ centre fielder Byron Buxton (25) slides safely into second base ahead of the tag by Toronto Blue Jays’ second baseman Cavan Biggio (8) for a double in the fifth inning of American League baseball action in Toronto on Friday, June 3, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jon Blacker.