Blue Jays staring at another must-win vs. Twins in wild-card quest

MLB Baseball

After snapping a three-game losing streak and staying in the thick of the American League wild-card race with an impressive 6-1 victory on Saturday night, the Toronto Blue Jays will try to earn a split of their four-game series with the Minnesota Twins on Sunday afternoon in Minneapolis.

Rookie right-hander Alek Manoah (7-2, 3.36 ERA), who has won his past two starts — both against the AL East champion Tampa Bay Rays — will take the mound for Toronto (86-69). Anoter rookie right-hander, Griffin Jax (3-4, 6.75), will make his first career start against the Blue Jays and will be looking to pick up his first victory since Aug. 10.

The Blue Jays head into Sunday two games behind the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, who are both 88-67 and currently hold the two wild-card spots. With a victory over Minnesota (69-86) in Sunday’s finale, Toronto will trail the loser of Yankees-Red Sox game at Fenway Park by a game with six games to go. That includes three games between the Blue Jays and Yankees in Toronto starting on Tuesday.

Robbie Ray picked up his 13th victory of the season in Saturday night’s win at Target Field, scattering three hits and four walks over six innings while striking out six. He leads the American League in both ERA (2.68) and strikeouts (244) and has picked up wins in four of his last six starts.

“For us to stay where we are, stay in this thing, it felt like tonight was a must-win for me,” Ray said. “To be able to go out and do that was huge.”

“I think he’s probably had a lot of other starts that were probably more dominating than this one,” Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said. “But ultimately, when he needed to get outs, he pulled it together, threw the ball where he wanted to, missed a few bats, and got it done.”

Marcus Semien tied the major league single-season record for home runs by a second baseman set by Davey Johnson of the Braves in 1973 with his 43rd blast, and Teoscar Hernandez and George Springer also hit home runs to lead Toronto’s 11-hit attack.

Springer’s two-run shot into the second deck in left field in the seventh inning was his 18th of an injury-plagued season and first in 50 at-bats. It also was his first hit in 23 at-bats against Minnesota this season.

“I’ve never seen the dugout so happy, to see George hit that ball,” Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo said. “Because we know that he can be that guy who can carry us the next seven games. We all know he’s done it before this year, and he’s done it before in the past.”

“Just to get on base,” said Springer, the 2017 World Series MVP after leading the Houston Astros to the championship, of the homer. “I understand that this has been a grind but I’m trying my best. I understand I need to perform. It was a good swing. I’ll take it.”

How crucial of a win was it for the Blue Jays?

“It’s huge,” Springer said. “It allows us to kind of stay in it. It allows us to breathe a little bit. … Obviously our horse (Ray) was huge again tonight, and it’s on to tomorrow.”

–Field Level Media

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