The Toronto Blue Jays are going to the post-season for the third time in the last four years, this time facing the host Minnesota Twins (87-75) Tuesday (4:38 p.m. ET) in the first game of a best-of-three wild card series.
All games will be played at Target Field in Minneapolis.
Here’s what to expect in this matchup.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS:
Standing as the pillars of the offence are all-stars Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (26 home runs, 94 RBI, .789 OPS) and Bo Bichette (20 home runs, 73 RBI, .814 OPS), as well as George Springer (21 home runs, 72 RBI, .732 OPS). Despite Springer having a somewhat shaky season, the four-time all-star and World Series Champion MVP (2017) can come up big in the moments when he’s needed most.
The crucial factor for Toronto will be generating offensive production from the middle and lower sections of its batting order. Players like Matt Chapman (17 home runs, 54 RBI, .754 OPS), Daulton Varsho (20 home runs, 61 RBI, .674 OPS), Cavan Biggio (9 home runs, 40 RBI, .710 OPS), and Kevin Kiermaier (8 home runs, 36 RBI, .741 OPS) will all be keys to victory for the Blue Jays.
For pitching, Kevin Gausman is set to start Game 1. The right-handed pitcher currently has an ERA of 3.16 and a 12-9 record this season. Game 2 starter is Jose Berrios (11-12, 3.65 ERA) with the third contest, if needed, likely going to Chris Bassitt (16-8, 3.60 ERA).
Toronto’s relief pitchers are Jordan Hicks (2.63 ERA, 4 SV), Jordan Romano (2.90 ERA, 36 SV), Erik Swanson (2.97 ERA, 4 SV), and Yimi Garcia (4.09 ERA, 3 SV). Romano was originally touted to be the main closer, but due to some late season struggles, Hicks looks to be taking that place after being acquired at the trade deadline.
Leading the Blue Jays from the dugout is manager John Schneider. The second-year boss is aiming for redemption after getting swept in last years post-season by the Seattle Mariners (88-74), who did not make the playoffs this year. His current regular-season record with the club is 135-101.
The AL Central Division winners have a collaborative approach to their offence with multiple contributors. Despite the team sharing the lead for American League home runs, their leader, Max Kepler, was 54th in the league with 24. The right fielder also finished the regular season with 66 RBI and .816 OPS.
There were 10 players that finished with 14 or more home runs, including Joey Gallo (21 home runs, 40 RBI, .741 OPS), Michael A. Taylor (21 home runs, 51 RBI, .720 OPS) and Carlos Correa (18 home runs, 65 RBI, .711).
Pitching is looking strong and confident for the home team. All-star right-handed hurlers Pablo Lopez (11-8, 3.66 ERA) and Sonny Gray (8-8, 2.79 ERA) are scorching hot this season and currently getting Cy Young buzz.
Also looking to potentially get a start in this series is Joe Ryan (11-10, 4.51 ERA), Bailey Ober (8-6, 3.43 ERA), or Kenta Maeda (6-8, 4.23 ERA).
Jhoan Duran (2.45 ERA, 27 SV) will be the main closer for the Twins. The 25 year old right-handed pitcher is one of the best closers in baseball and threw the fastest pitch in the majors this season at 104.8 mph.
Other closers looking to take the mound are Griffin Jax (3.86 ERA, 4 SV) and former Blue Jay Brock Stewart (0.65 ERA, 1 SV).
Managing the Twins is Rocco Baldelli. His current regular-season record is 375-333. Despite winning AL Manager of the Year in 2019, the coach is winless in the post-season, having an 0-5 record from his appearances in 2019 and 2020.