Twins bump Blue Jays back in wild card race, as Gurriel hurt

Sep 23, 2021, 8:29 AM | Updated: 9:37 pm
Minnesota Twins pitcher Michael Pineda throws against the Toronto Blue Jays in the first inning of ...

Minnesota Twins pitcher Michael Pineda throws against the Toronto Blue Jays in the first inning of a baseball game, Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

(AP Photo/Jim Mone)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Toronto Blue Jays were relieved when surging left fielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. escaped a freak play in the outfield without serious injury.

Now they’ve got some hard work ahead of them to return to the postseason.

Nick Gordon drove in four runs and Michael Pineda won his third straight start as the Minnesota Twins beat Toronto 7-2 on Thursday night to bump the Blue Jays back in the AL wild-card race.

“Well, we’ve got nine games left. Back-to-back tough losses, it’s about flushing it and going on to the next game,” catcher Danny Jansen said. “We can’t dwell on it.”

The loss was doubly painful for Toronto, which fell a full game behind New York for the second spot and three games behind wild-card leader Boston. Gurriel exited in the fifth inning after teammate Randal Grichuk accidentally stepped on his right hand. The Blue Jays said X-rays revealed no breaks, but he needed two stitches on his middle finger.

“Everything we’ve heard is I think the best news we could get,” said coach John Schneider, who filled in while manager Charlie Montoyo served a one-game suspension. “We’ll see how he is tomorrow, and hopefully it’s not too long.”

Gurriel had an RBI double and has driven in a major league-most 30 runs to go with a .364 batting average in September, matching Kelly Gruber (1990) for the most RBIs in the month in franchise history.

“When he’s swinging at the right pitches, he’s really dangerous,” Schneider said.

Blue Jays starter Steven Matz finished just three innings with seven hits and two walks allowed. He needed 80 pitches to get that far, and Toronto turned the game over to the bullpen trailing 2-1.

Teoscar Hernández tied it in the fourth with his 30th homer off a first-pitch slider from Pineda, but the game unraveled for the Blue Jays in the fifth.

On a double by Mitch Garver — who was 3 for 4 with an RBI — to the gap, Grichuk grabbed the ball to make a quick throw to the infield to keep Josh Donaldson from scoring. As Gurriel crouched down to give him space, Grichuk’s cleat landed on Gurriel’s hand during the follow-through.

Blood was dripping from his middle finger as Grichuk knelt next to him, before a team athletic trainer arrived for assessment and heavily wrapped the hand in a towel before Gurriel walked off.

Gordon later greeted reliever Julian Merryweather with a three-run homer. Thomas Hatch (0-1), who replaced Matz for the fourth, exited with right hamstring discomfort before Merryweather entered.

WILD FINISH

Five teams are still within striking distance of the two AL wild cards. The Red Sox (88-65) and Yankees (86-67) were idle. Seattle (84-69) pulled within one game of Toronto (85-68) and two of New York by beating Oakland (82-71).

The Blue Jays play three more times at Minnesota this weekend, before returning home for their final six games — three against the Yankees and three against AL-worst Baltimore. New York plays a three-game series at Boston starting on Friday and concludes the regular season at home with a three-game series against AL East leader Tampa Bay.

MISSED CHANCES

The Blue Jays left 11 runners on base, one in each of the first eight innings. Corey Dickerson, who replaced Gurriel, was thrown out at home by left fielder Luis Arraez to end the sixth. George Springer lined out sharply to the pitcher with the bases loaded to end the eighth after Ralph Garza entered in relief for the Twins.

BIG MIKE

Pineda (8-8) gave up eight hits, two runs and one walk in five innings. The right-hander, who can become a free agent this fall, also picked up the victory with three scoreless innings on Sept. 6 at Cleveland in his first career major league relief appearance.

“I like to be a team guy, so I love to work together. I know I’m a leader right now,” Pineda said.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: Springer was the DH again, going 0 for 5 while still working his way back to full strength following a left knee sprain that kept him out from Aug. 15-29. He has not played CF since before the injury, which sent him to the injured list for a third time this season.

“We all know in this clubhouse, and I think the entire league knows, he’s about one swing away from being where he really needs to be,” Schneider said.

Twins: RF Max Kepler left the game in the fourth inning due to an illness unrelated to COVID-19.

UP NEXT

Blue Jays: RHP José Berríos (12-8, 3.45 ERA) will start on Friday night, facing his former team for the second time in less than a week. He beat the Twins with three runs allowed over 6 2/3 innings in Toronto on Sunday, but this will be his first time on the mound at Target Field as a visitor.

“It’s emotional, but it’s my work, so I have to go out and do my work,” said Berríos, who is 4-1 with a 2.38 ERA in his last five turns. He was honored before the game with a tribute video on the scoreboard and a hearty ovation from the crowd.

Twins: RHP Bailey Ober (2-3, 4.34 ERA) will pitch the second game of the series.

___

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