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Santana’s solo shot lifts Twins over Blue Jays 3-2 in rematch of wild-card series

Written by on May 10, 2024

TORONTO — Carlos Santana’s go-ahead home run in the fifth inning lifted the Minnesota Twins over the Toronto Blue Jays 3-2 on Friday.

Jose Miranda’s RBI single in the first inning opened the scoring as Minnesota (23-15) won its third straight. Pinch-hitter Max Kepler added another RBI single in the ninth.

Joe Ryan (2-2) struck out seven over seven innings, giving up one run on six hits. Jhoan Duran and Griffin Jax came out of the Twins bullpen to preserve the win.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s home run in the third inning and his RBI single in the ninth was all the offence Toronto (17-21) could muster. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., went 2 for 4 to improve his batting average to .253 after a slow start to the season.

Yusei Kikuchi (2-3) pitched eight efficient innings, allowing two runs on four hits, striking out three. Nate Pearson and Genesis Cabrera came out of the Blue Jays bullpen, with Pearson giving up a run.

It was the first time the two teams had met since Toronto manager John Schneider made the controversial decision to pull starting pitcher Jose Berrios after three innings for Kikuchi in the Blue Jays’ 2-0 loss to Minnesota in the decisive game of last year’s American League wild-card series. 

Miranda gave the Twins an early lead with a one-out single that scored Carlos Correa. Kikuchi struggled to get out of the first inning without giving up more runs, eventually inducing a pop fly from Manuel Margot for a second out.

Heads-up fielding got Kikuchi out of the inning.

Willi Castro decided to try and take advantage of the left-handed Kikuchi and steal home when Blue Jays catcher Danny Jansen threw to second as Miranda tried to swipe the base. But Kiner-Falefa fired the ball back home, with Jansen applying the tag for the inning’s third out.

Kiner-Falefa’s bat came into play two innings later, as he led off the third with a solo home run. His second homer of the season came off Ryan’s 80.9 m.p.h. sweeper, flying 365 feet into Toronto’s bullpen to tie the game 1-1.

Santana answered back for the Twins in the fifth with his fifth homer of the season. He sent a 97.4 m.p.h. four-seam fastball from Kikuchi 342 feet, bouncing the ball off the signage above a standing-bar area in right field to ricochet back into play.

Kepler, pinch hitting for Miranda, hit a dribbler to shallow right field off of Cabrera with two outs in the ninth for a 3-1 lead. That scored Correa, who had doubled off Pearson.

Kiner-Falefa pulled the Blue Jays to within a run in the bottom of the inning. His two-out single to shallow right field brought home Bo Bichette from second, advanced Cavan Biggio to third, and brought the 34,205 fans at Rogers Centre to their feet.

In the next at bat, Ernie Clement hit a comebacker to Jax that gave Biggio time to cross home but the Twins reliever was able to recover and throw the ball to first, getting Clement out and ending the game.

SCHNEIDER LEADING OFF — Outfielders George Springer and Kevin Kiermaier were given the night off as they struggled with a virus. Left-fielder Davis Schneider was moved to the top of Toronto’s batting order in place of Springer, who has struggled to start the season, hitting .206 with a .276 on-base percentage.

“Not ready to pull the plug on George,” said Blue Jays manager John Schneider before the game. “I think that he’s still a huge part of our team. We’ll see how it goes tonight and go from there.”

ON DECK — Kevin Gausman (2-3) will take the mound on Saturday afternoon as the Blue Jays continue their series with the Twins.

Simeon Woods Richardson (1-0) is scheduled to start for Minnesota.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 10, 2024.

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press