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By The Numbers: Blue Jays, Twins appear evenly matched ahead of wild-card


The Toronto Blue Jays are back in the American League playoffs as a wild-card qualifier for the third time in the past four seasons, and their Wild Card Series opponent is the AL Central-champion Minnesota Twins.

Toronto finished 89-73 to claim the final of the three wild-card slots in the American League, while the Twins won the AL Central with a record of 87-75 - the fewest win total of any AL team to qualify for the postseason. 

American League playoffs qualifiers

Seed Team Record How they qualified
Baltimore Orioles  101-61  Won AL East 
Houston Astros  90-72  Won AL West 
Minnesota Twins  87-75  Won AL Central 
Tampa Bay Rays  99-63  Wild Card 1 
Texas Rangers  90-72  Wild Card 2 
Toronto Blue Jays  89-73  Wild Card 3 

The Twins emerge as the winners of the weakest division in MLB - they were the only team of the five to finish with a winning record, whereas four of five teams in the AL East finished above .500. The AL Central has two of the four teams across the majors that finished with over 100 losses on the year in the Chicago White Sox and Kansas City Royals.

While Toronto struggled at times to score runs, they finished with the fourth-best team earned run average in MLB this year at 3.78. The Twins didn't trail by much, finishing sixth with an ERA of 3.87. Here's how the teams stack up against one another on both sides:

Blue Jays and Twins ranks in MLB

  Toronto Blue Jays MLB rank Minnesota Twins MLB rank
Team ERA  3.78  4th 3.87  6th
Team strikeouts   1,528  2nd 1,560  1st
Total runs allowed  671  6th 659  3rd
Team batting average  .256  8th .243  21st
Team home runs  188  16th 233  3rd
Total runs scored  746  14th 778  10th
Team OPS with RISP  .732  20th .811  6th

The Twins, on paper, seem to be the easiest opponent available in the AL just based on their win total, but they've provided challenges for Toronto this season in their two series.

The Jays and Twins split their regular-season matchups, three wins apiece. Every matchup except for one - a 9-4 blowout on June 10 in favour of Minnesota - was decided by three runs or fewer. 

Blue Jays vs. Twins in 2023

  Toronto Blue Jays Minnesota Twins
Runs scored  26  28 
Batting average  .259  .253 
Home runs 
Strikeouts  50  74 
Batting average with runners in scoring position .222 .230
Runs in the final three innings of games 8 12

An issue that often presented itself for the Blue Jays this season was hitting in clutch moments, be it with runners in scoring position or just hitting late in games in general. Those issues were certainly prevalent against the Twins, which helped decide a couple of games, including a 3-2 defeat in extra innings in Minnesota. 

The last time these teams squared off was June 11, just 67 games into the 162-game campaign for Toronto. Both rosters will look a little different in the playoffs compared to what they featured earlier in the year.

Most notable for the Twins is the likely absence of outfielder Byron Buxton, who has been dealing with a knee injury and hasn't played a game since Aug. 1. The former All-Star and Platinum Glove winner has a career batting average of .273 against Toronto in 29 games, and has hit eight homeruns. 

Game 1 of the series is set to go from Target Field in Minnesota on Tuesday, with Pablo Lopez the scheduled starter for the Twins, and Kevin Gausman likely to take the hill for the Blue Jays. 

Lopez pitched in one game against Toronto this year, their second matchup of the season. The Jays lost that game 9-7, and Lopez allowed four earned runs in 5.2 innings of work. Meanwhile, the Twins have seen plenty of Gausman this season, as he started a game in both series, with vastly different results in each start.

Pitching in Toronto, Gausman earned the win when he allowed one earned run over 5.1 innings of work. However, in Minnesota, Gausman pitched one of his worst games of the season: he allowed seven hits and four walks in 4.2 innings, and left the game with the Jays trailing 6-1. 

Game 1 pitching matchup

  Kevin Gausman Pablo Lopez
2023 ERA  3.16  3.66 
2023 innings pitched  185.0  194.0 
2023 strikeouts  237  234 
2023 ERA vs. opponent  6.30  6.35 
2023 innings pitched vs. opponent  10.0  5.2 
2023 strikeouts vs. opponent  12 
Career ERA vs. opponent  6.35  5.59 
Career innings pitched vs. opponent  56.2  9.2 
Career strikeouts vs. opponent  65  15 

While both Gausman and Lopez were All-Stars this season, they have shaky track records at best against their foes in this playoff series. 

Since the 2014 season, the AL playoffs have featured either the Twins or Jays - or both - every year except for 2018 and 2021. Despite the recent success for each of these franchises in qualifying for the playoffs, both teams have struggled to win postseason games.

Since 1993, when the Blue Jays beat the Philadelphia Phillies with Joe Carter's walk-off home run in Game 6 of the World Series, the Twins and Blue Jays have combined to win just three playoffs series. 

Blue Jays' and Twins' playoff woes, last 30 seasons

  Toronto Blue Jays Minnesota Twins
Playoff appearances 
Series record  3-4  1-9 
Overall record  10-14  6-27 
Furthest run  ALCS (2015, 2016)  ALCS (2002) 
Times swept 

This is not the first meeting between these two teams in MLB postseason history - when they last met in the American League Championship Series in 1991, it was the Twins and Hall-of-Famer Kirby Puckett who got the upper hand on Toronto. Puckett was named ALCS MVP after he hit .429 in the 4-1 series victory with two home runs.

The Twins would go on to win the World Series against the Atlanta Braves that year, with Dan Gladden's walk-off single that broke a scoreless tie in the 10th inning of Game 7 creating an eternal memory for Twins fans.   

The Blue Jays look to rebound from a two-game Wild Card Series sweep at the hands of the Seattle Mariners in Toronto a year ago, and Gausman will take the mound looking to get started on the right foot.