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 had been a lack of hitting, with the Twins 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, the team's closer, 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.
"Michael A. Taylor has been there for us all year long," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said in a postgame interview on Bally Sports North. "We've talked about him as a defensive star out there … but he's making things happen at the plate, too."
Taylor is 6-for-12 with two homers and four RBI in his past five games, while Duran rebounded from giving up a walk-off homer at Tampa Bay on Wednesday.
Lewis hit his fourth single of the game, moving Ryan Jeffers, who started the inning at second, to third. After Christian Vázquez grounded out, Taylor lifted reliever Adam Cimber's pitch to medium depth in left field. Jeffers tagged up and slid safely home, headfirst, as Whit Merrifield's throw bounced and catcher Alejandro Kirk didn't catch the ball.
"I had faith in his speed right there," Taylor said of Jeffers, a 235-pound catcher, on BSN.
Toronto nearly won the game in 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 Kirk lined out to Willi Castro on 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.
In the 10th, Duran issued a one-out walk to Merrifield before striking out Daulton Varsho and getting Espinal to pop out to end the game.
"He's out there against a really good lineup, and he holds them [in the ninth] and then he holds them again with a runner on second base," Baldelli said. "Just a hell of an outing from him."
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.
The Twins broke through in the fifth when Lewis led off with a sharp infield single up the middle. After Vázquez struck out, Taylor hammered a two-run homer to left off Blue Jays lefthander Yusei Kikuchi (five innings, two runs, four hits).
In the bottom of the fifth, the Blue Jays cut the lead to 2-1 on Bichette's RBI single that scored Espinal, who walked to lead off the inning. Gray avoided further damage by getting the final two outs with the bases loaded. He needed 31 pitches to get through the inning.
"To be able to get out of it, I was happy with that, but at the same time, the leadoff walk [to Espinal] is the one that kind of stayed with me," Gray told BSN.
Toronto tied the score 2-2 in the sixth on Springer's two-out double that scored Espinal on the first pitch thrown by reliever Brock Stewart. After that, the Twins bullpen shut the door.
"That's five very, very strong innings from the bullpen," Gray said, "and that was much, much, much needed tonight."
The Star Tribune did not send the writer of this article to the game. This was written using a broadcast, interviews and other material.