Home News Blue Jays win first game vs. Twins after players’ meeting in Tampa Bay

Blue Jays win first game vs. Twins after players’ meeting in Tampa Bay

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MINNEAPOLIS — Kevin Gausman heard the cheers from the crowd when he got the first out of the game for the Blue Jays on Friday.

It wasn’t a return home for Toronto after a tough series in Tampa Bay, but it might have been just what the Jays need after losing nine of 11.

Gausman pitched 5 1/3 steady innings, Kevin Kiermaier and Bo Bichette homered and Toronto beat Minnesota, 3-1, on Friday night with boisterous support from Blue Jays fans who filled the third-base, lower level of Target Field.

“It was a huge win for sure,” Gausman said. “Obviously, we’re trying to get something going right now and it was important to kind of turn the page from the last couple series. I thought it was good to win the first game of the series.”

Toronto had some support from fans, got good pitching, enough hitting and, finally, faced a team outside the American League East. While Minnesota leads the AL Central, it’s a fresh opponent at an important time for the Blue Jays.

They had played three straight series in the division, going 2-11 in those games, a stretch that saw Toronto slip from third in the East to last place and 10.5 games out entering Friday.

The Blue Jays are 6-15 in the East after the recent stretch, but they are 21-10 against the other divisions.

“Obviously, a tough stretch in our division,” Gausman said. “I think everybody can kind of look at the AL East, and it’s the best division in baseball year in and year out. And the American League, in general, is — I think — better than the National League. So like I said, it’s a really good team here and in their ballpark, they usually play well here, so it’s a big win.”

Gausman and four relievers combined to hold Minnesota to one run on five hits. Nine walks — including a season-high five by Gausman — presented the Twins an opportunity to take control. But Toronto pitching held Minnesota to 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left 13 runners on base.

Meanwhile, George Springer, Bichette, Whit Merrifield, and Kiermaier had two hits. Kiermaier opened the scoring with a solo homer with two outs in the third. After Springer doubled, Bichette followed with his 10th homer to straightaway center field.

“I thought the overall at-bats were better, hitting some balls hard,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said. “Big day from Bo, [Kiermaier and Springer] getting us going and I thought we pitched out of jams. Guys that we trust. Gausman, I thought, was really good. [He] just ran deep counts.

“Still, [there are] things we can get a little better at, but I think that, overall, that’s kind of what you’re shooting for is good starting pitching and having the guys at the top of the order doing their thing.”

One of the items on the list for improvement, perhaps, is baserunning. Springer got caught in a rundown in the first inning when he tried for home on a ground ball to shortstop. Twins shortstop Carlos Correa ran down Springer for an out and then quickly fired to first base and got Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who had wandered to far off first.

Kiermaier was also tagged out on a rundown on a ground ball to third base after tripling.

“I think they were just a little bit overaggressive,” Schneider said. “It’s one of those things, you don’t expect that from two veteran dudes. I think when you’re kind of where we are, guys are trying to make things happen. But you’ve got to take a step back and just keep your focus on the little things.”

After ending the trip to Tampa Bay with a players-only meeting, Toronto believes it took a step forward in Minnesota.

“I think it was good to get a win,” Bichette said. “I think we can play better still. But we need us to be fearless, we need to be confident, we need to be aggressive and we’ll continue to work to be that.”

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