AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn
The Minnesota Twins have won a playoff matchup for the first time since 2002 after capping a two-game sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays with a 2-0 victory to end their American League Wild Card Series.
A moment 21 years in the making for the @Twins. #CLINCHED
(MLB x @BudweiserUSA) pic.twitter.com/LRSica0uJ7
A dramatic game went down in Minneapolis’ Target Field despite the fact that neither team scored outside the bottom of the fourth inning.
On the winning side, the Twins’ stellar pitching and defense took centerstage once again en route to leading Minnesota to playoff success.
Minnesota scratched out two runs in the fourth off two walks, two singles and a groundout, and that was all the team needed thanks to starter Sonny Gray (five shutout frames, six strikeouts) and the efforts of five Twins relievers.
On the losing side, the Jays’ season ends in bitter disappointment after the team scored just one run in two games.
Game 2 was particularly painful for three reasons.
First, an important (and later costly) decision took place in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Jays right-handed starting pitcher Jose Berrios, who cruised through three shutout frames while striking out five, led off the fourth with a walk to Twins superstar Royce Lewis.
Jays manager John Schneider then pulled Berrios after just 47 pitches to bring in left-handed Yusei Kikuchi. Do-Hyoung Park of MLB.com explained the move.
Do-Hyoung Park @dohyoungpark
Yusei Kikuchi is going in the bullpen for the Blue Jays. I figured something like this could be in play today, to force the Twins to start their RHP lineup but force them to make tough platoon decisions early.,
However, Kikuchi proceeded to give up an infield single, a walk and then a Carlos Correa RBI single to center.
Minnesota Twins @Twins
What time is it? C4 time.#WeBelieveinTC pic.twitter.com/QCjfIQG54O
Another run scored after a double play with the bases loaded.
Ultimately, that move backfired, but the Jays still held the Twins to two runs for the game. The bigger problem was at the dish and on the basepaths.
Simply put, Toronto didn’t take advantage of its opportunities, specifically in the fifth and sixth innings.
In the fifth, Toronto had Vladimir Guerrero Jr. on second and George Springer on third with cleanup hitter Bo Bichette at the dish with two outs. However, Sonny Gray caught Guerrero well off second base, and he picked the slugger off to end the frame.
Now this is a work of art. 🎨 #Postseason pic.twitter.com/U2Am5Mh1sL
In the sixth inning, Matt Chapman got up with one out and the bases loaded. He lined a pitch down the left field line, but it strayed just foul. On the next pitch, Chapman grounded into a double play, ending the inning.
The @Twins get out of a jam with a clutch double play! #Postseason pic.twitter.com/pGhImN3LDG
Overall, the Jays left 10 runners on base through the first six innings, including two apiece in the first, second and fifth and three in the sixth.
Fans and analysts provided strong reactions in particular to Gray’s pickoff of Guerrero as well as the decision to remove Berrios, which could have possibly been a move made in conjunction with the front office.
Keegan Matheson @KeeganMatheson
I’ll add this on the move from Berríos to Kikuchi:
This isn’t John Schneider sitting in his office and having an idea in the dark. At all. A strategy like this involves a range of coaches, front office, etc…
The #BlueJays are now down, 2-0.
Matt Zemek @MattZemek
#BlueJays writers are saying that pitching move was essentially a front office move and not Schneider.
All the more reason to clean house, @Rogers.#RuttigRules https://t.co/a4aORs30z3
The Guerrero pickoff was particularly damaging, though, especially with the Jays’ best hitter in Bo Bichette at the dish as the winning run at the time.
Ben Nicholson-Smith @bnicholsonsmith
With #BlueJays down two in a must-win game, Bo Bichette at the plate and runners on second and third, Vlad Guerrero Jr. gets picked off second base by Sonny Gray.
Just an incredibly costly baserunning mistake.
Michael Harrison @houndogharrison
The Vladdy base running blunder was far worse than the analytics play to lift Berrios (which still was bad) Totally inexcusable by Guerrero Jr. That wasn’t a John Schneider decision though – it was a team decision. So unless they totally clean house JS won’t be fired… #NextLevel
Max Greenfield @GreenfieldMax18
This game is a very good microcosm of the blue Jays season so far. Manager makes an odd decision, Vladimir Guerrero Jr messes up in a big moment, not able to hit the long ball.
Tom Harrington @cbctom
Bichette yesterday missing the sign at third. Guerrero today, not aware of his surroundings. So many mental errors like this by the Jays this season. Speaks to a lack of discipline, attention to detail. #NextLevel
No way Vlad Guerrero Jr just got picked off at second… the Blue Jays are actually embarrassing themselves
Ben Kelly @benkellycanada
“Well I’ve officially just made the dumbest move of the post season” John Schneider. “Hold my beer” Vladimir Guerrero Jr. #BlueJays #nextlevelstupid
Bob Nightengale @BNightengale
Huge blunder by Guerrero.
Carson Krischke @CarsonKrischke
vladimir guerrero jr gets picked off with the best @BlueJays hitter up. Vladimir, are you kidding me.
On the flip side, the Berrios decision appeared to take any wind out of the Jays’ sails. They were going back-and-forth with the Twins at that point, and the move appeared to put momentum back into Minnesota’s hands.
Former Jays superstar outfielder Vernon Wells provided his opinion on the matter.
Vernon Wells @VernonWells10
Which move is worse, taking Snell out in the World Series or taking Berrios out after 47 pitches?
Other did as well, including ex-Toronto skipper Buck Martinez.
Adam Laskaris @adam_la2karis
Buck Martinez isn’t a fan of the #BlueJays pitching change today, taking out Jose Berrios in the 4th:
“There’s no reason for him to come out of that game. You didn’t know what Kikuchi was going to do, you knew what Berrios was doing. There was no reason to make the change.” pic.twitter.com/4SMIbNZadW
Sid Seixeiro @Sid_Seixeiro
Jays gave Jose Berrios 131 million dollars in order to take him out of the most important start of his life after 47 pitches of shutout ball.
Ken Reid @SNKenReid
They just pulled Berrios after 47 pitches of 0 run ball!!!!! Thanks analytics nerds. You are smarter than all of us. This puts Kikuchi in such a bad spot. The geeks at their computers have no feel for the moment. This is just terrible. Just awful. #nerdsruinbaseball
Jackie Redmond @Jackie_Redmond
So Berrios was dealing…
Against his former team
In the ballpark he called home for 6 yrs..
In a do or die game…
But you take him out in the HOPES Kikuchi gets to his A game right away 🧐
This is what you get when you try to OUT-THINK the game!
Jenn Smith @Baseball_Jenn
One of the utterly egregious things about pulling Berríos early is that he’s *their* guy. They traded for him and then gave him a 7-year extension – and they pull him from a must-win game in which he’s absolutely shoving? Unbelievable. #BlueJays
Steve Simmons @simmonssteve
You don’t manage a game before it begins. No matter what the computers tell you. Pulling Berrios this early is dumb.
Nae 🧬 @NaeNaeTakes
Analytically speaking that was the right move. The problem is that baseball is not played on a spreadsheet and every time you switch pitchers in a high pressure situation you run the risk of one simply not being ready for that moment. Jose Berrios had it. Don’t waste that.
If Schneider made the call to pull Berrios, he should be fired. If he did it because Atkins told him to, they should both be fired and the front office given a facelift because that was an extreme “can’t see the forest for the trees” situation.
In the end, though, the Twins’ fantastic showing should be celebrated. They broke a two-decade playoff slump and look like a tough out in the process thanks to great pitching and defense.
Do-Hyoung Park @dohyoungpark
The Minnesota Twins have swept the Toronto Blue Jays with a 2-0 win in Game 2.
They are moving on in the playoffs for the first time since 2002, set for an ALDS matchup against Houston.
They allowed one run in the two-game sweep. They have the pitching to get this thing done.
I’m just overjoyed…so proud of this team! Just a tremendous effort these last two days with Correa leading the way. #WeBelieveinTC pic.twitter.com/WCDTQcYCfp
YOUR MINNESOTA TWINS HAVE ADVANCED IN THE PLAYOFFS FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 21 YEARS‼️
They’re also the first MN team to advance in the playoffs since the 2017 Vikings!
Comment a #WeBelieveinTC below!#WeBelieveinTC #WeBelieveinTC
Dustin Baker @DustBaker
I think, for me, the best way to describe this version of Twins, which contrasts to most Minnesota sports endeavors, is that they don’t feel “accidental.”
Rami Hanna @WhoElseButRami
Minnesota Twins fans after winning their first playoff series since 2002:#Postseason #WeBelieveInTC pic.twitter.com/bOtyWLagEV
Batting Stance Guy @BattingStanceG
That was a long wait for Twins fans to win a playoff series. This DOME long ago. #WeBelieveinTC pic.twitter.com/x7KCcVujhP
Phil Mackey 🎙 @PhilMackey
For the Twins Twitter OGs…#ItsHappening
Bryce Spalding @bryce_spalding
I’m so happy for the Twins and their fans, man. That’s awesome.
Minnesota will now move onto the American League Division Series to face the defending World Series champion Houston Astros.
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