The conclusion of another post-season for the Blue Jays ended in a first-round sweep, and the spotlight sharply illuminated the early departure of Jose Berrios. Despite the debate over strategic pitching moves, a lack of successful offense remained undeniable. Combined with a severe basepath error and absent clutch hitting, Toronto’s futile quest for their premier playoff win post-2016 was unsurprising.
The Minnesota Twins emerged victoriously in Game 1 with a 3-1 score and subsequently completed a two-game sweep by defeating Blue Jays 2-0 at Target Field on Wednesday. The Blue Jays’ manager, John Schneider, confessed after the loss, “We fell short of executing what we wanted to do collectively.”
Following the termination of their agonizing 18-game playoff losing streak, the Twins will now progress to the AL Division Series and confront the Houston Astros. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays are left dissecting their performance, having been swept in the first round three times in four years.
Despite Toronto’s shortstop Bo Bichette’s disappointing playoff track record, he was blunt in his assessment, stating, “You can’t win without scoring runs.” This sentiment was felt keenly on the field, as the Blue Jays failed to deliver runs despite multiple opportunities.
The catalyst for discussion, however, was Schneider’s decision to withdraw Berrios early, a risky choice given the form he displayed against his former team. However, Schneider defended his move, arguing the need to utilize the entire roster based on the contenders’ makeup.
Following an exhausting performance, which saw a leadoff walk in the fourth inning after 47 pitches, Berrios gave way to Yusei Kikuchi. The Twins scored twice in that frame, securing a lead they’d maintain.
Toronto’s missed conversions were glaring. Despite having runners at second and third base during the second, fifth, and sixth innings, they failed to capitalize. Schneider articulated this observable failing, saying, “One run in two games, one extra-base hit isn’t going to cut it.”
For the third time in under half a decade, Toronto fell in the playoff post-season elimination games. Sonny Gray threw the proving innings for the Twin’s victory, backed by five relievers who enforced a nine-hit shutout, with Jhoan Duran contributing to the final save.
In a rather frustrating moment during the fifth inning, Gray managed to pick off Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at second base, terminating a potential scoring opportunity for the Blue Jays. Despite a challenge from Toronto, the call was upheld following a review.
The game concluded with Duran striking out Matt Chapman and Daulton Varsho, ensuring Minnesota’s victory. With this win, Minnesota, the Central Division title holder, secured home-field advantage as the third seed. Unfortunately, the Blue Jays, despite having two more regular season wins than the Twins, were seeded sixth as the final wild-card entry.
As for future match-ups, Chris Bassitt and Joe Ryan were lined up to take the mound for Game 3. However, with the series now decided, Ryan is poised to start the ALDS opener on Saturday. This defeat becomes another chapter in the shared history of the Twins and Blue Jays who previously met in the AL Championship Series in 1991. Despite the setback, Toronto will no doubt recall their successive World Series victories in 1992 and 1993 as they gear up for the next season.