Twins bump Blue Jays back in wild card race

Dave Campbell Ap Sports Writer
Friday, September 24, 2021
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Minnesota Twins’ Josh Donaldson, left, beats the tag by Toronto Blue Jays’ Breyvic Valera (74) as he dives safely back to third after being caught off the base in the third inning of a baseball game, Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021, in Minneapolis. AP PHOTO

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.

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