The Twins carried the baggage of a five-game losing streak to Toronto for the opener of a three-game series against the Blue Jays on Friday night. The main culprit in the skid has been a lack of hitting, with Minnesota scoring a total of six runs in that span and no more than two runs in any game.
Friday at Rogers Centre, Michael A. Taylor and Jhoan Duran made sure the streak ended.
Taylor, the Twins’ No. 9 hitter, hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning and drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly in the 10th in a 3-2 victory over the Blue Jays. Duran worked out of a jam in the ninth and pitched a scoreless 10th for the win as the Twins returned to .500 at 32-32.
Taylor is 6-for-12 with two homers and four RBIs in his past five games, while Duran rebounded from allowing a walk-off home run against Tampa Bay on Wednesday.
In the top of the 10th, Royce Lewis hit his fourth single of the game, moving Ryan Jeffers, who started the inning at second, to third. After Christian Vazquez grounded out, Taylor lifted reliever Adam Cimber’s pitch to medium depth in left field. Whit Merrifield’s’ throw home was high, and Jeffers slid in safely.
Toronto nearly won the game in the bottom of the ninth. Duran hit Santiago Espinal to open the inning, and George Springer followed with a double to the left-center gap, with Espinal stopping at third. After Alejandro Kirk lined out to Willi Castro second, Duran struck out Bo Bichette. An intentional walk to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. loaded the bases, and Brandon Belt lined out to Castro, ending the threat.
Twins starter Sonny Gray gave up one run and five hits over five innings while striking out five. He breezed through the first four innings on 45 pitches, including six in the first. Toronto starter Yusei Kikuchi gave up two runs and four hits over five innings.
The Twins broke through in the fifth when Lewis led off with his second single of the night, a sharp infield grounder up the middle. After Vazquez struck out looking, Taylor hammered a two-run homer to left.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Blue Jays rallied to cut the lead to 2-1, but Gray avoided further damage by getting the final two outs with the bases loaded. He needed 31 pitches to get through the inning.
Gray issued his first walk of the game to Espinal to open the fifth. After Cavan Biggio struck out, Tyler Heineman hit a bloop single to left, moving Espinal to second. Bichette followed with a single off the glove of diving second baseman Kyle Farmer, scoring Espinal and sending Heineman to third. The pressure on Gray increased when Guerrero walked to load the bases, but the veteran righthander struck out Belt and got Matt Chapman to ground out to third, where Lewis applied the tag to Bichette for the third out.
Lefthander Jovani Moran took over for Gray in the sixth and got the first two outs before giving up a single to Espinal. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli replaced Moran with Brock Stewart to face pinch hitter Springer, who blasted Stewart’s first pitch to the left-center gap for a double to send Espinal home and tie the score 2-2. Springer took third on the throw home. Stewart struck out Kirk to end the inning.