Toronto Blue Jays use long ball to take Game 1 of the series over Minnesota Twins 3-1
Called into the game with Twins runners on second and third base and just one out, Erik Swanson’s first four pitches to Joey Gallo badly missed the strike zone. Consider it a semi-intentional life-saving walk for the Blue Jays.
Gallo ran to first base, and the Twins’ rally died abruptly, as it almost always does this season, from a glut of baserunners. Michael A. Taylor took a called third strike — or so plate umpire Bruce Dreckman said he did — and Donovan Solano failed, condemning the Twins to their sixth straight series opener loss. , 3-1 against Toronto at Target Field.
The missed opportunity to tie the game continued one of the 2023 Twins’ most mystifying random traits: their inability to hit with bases loaded. Saturday will mark two weeks since their last single in this situation; they’re 0 for 12 with a walk and no other RBIs with runners on every base since then.
In literally every other runner setup on the base, the Twins are average or better, hitting at least .234 each. With runners ranked first and third, they are collectively .391 hitters, better than every AL team except Texas. But add that third base runner and you stifle their attack. They are hitting just .111, 5 for 45 this season, and are the only team in the game with no extra hits.
That inexplicable habit marred what was an otherwise intriguing pitching duel between Kevin Gausman, a former All-Star right-hander making his 239th major league start, and Louie Varland, making his 11th. Gausman had command issues all night, walking five batters, his most in nearly two years, but kept them from being a problem, mostly, by striking out eight.
Varland’s problem was more damaging: For the fourth time in seven starts this year, he’s allowed at least a pair of homers. The rookie right-hander’s outing was wasted on a seven-pitch streak in the third inning.
With two outs, Kevin Kiermaier hit a 1-2 slider 400 feet into the right field seats, his fourth of the year, for the first inning of the game. George Springer followed up three pitches later with a brace to the corner of right field. And three pitches later, Varland left another slider in the middle of home plate. Bo Bichette hammered 424 feet down center right away, the only big inning of the night.
The Blue Jays, playing in front of a large and boisterous crowd of Canadians among the 25,061 fans in the building, could have had a few more if not for a dodgy base run. Springer’s first double to start the game was for nothing when he got too far from third base on Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s grounder to Carlos Correa at short range. Correa pulled his former Astros teammate out, then returned the ball to first base, where Guerrero couldn’t get back in time.
And in the fifth inning, Kiermaier hit a looping line into left field that took a weird bounce past Alex Kirilloff for a triple. But he, too, got too far from the sack when Springer hit a grounder to third baseman Kyle Farmer, who tagged it.
Still, those threes were plenty against the Twins, who went 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position. After Gausman walked Kirilloff and Edouard Julien in the sixth inning, Kyle Garlick hit a one-out double in the left-field corner, scoring Kirilloff. Jays manager John Schneider lifted Gausman for Soloman, who immediately walked Gallo, setting up the inevitable.
Taylor worked the count to 3-2 and believed he had walked when Soloman’s pitch dipped below the strike zone. But Dreckman ruled it a strike, and although Taylor disagreed with the call, it fell to 0 for 5 with bases loaded.
Solano finished the inning with an easy short grounder, dropping it to 0 for 5 this year as well.
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