Tuesday, December 12, 2023

One seeks to end the drought, the other to erase bad memories

MINNEAPOLIS — Pablo López had just arrived with the Minnesota Twins and was just eight years old in his native Venezuela when it began a string of postseason failures.

He had heard all about it and he really wanted her gone.

“I think like everything in life, nothing lasts forever,” said Lopez, who will open the American League wild-card series game Tuesday at Target Field against the Toronto Blue Jays. “This group is as good as any to give the team, the fans and the community a chance to celebrate something.”

With 18 postseason losses, the Twins have the longest losing streak in any American sport. Their last playoff victory was on October 5, 2004 against the New York Yankees. It’s been 21 years since they won a postseason series.

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“Most of us haven’t been part of this bad streak, but I know the fans have,” López said. “We accept it and we will use it as motivation.”

The Twins, champions of the American Central, will play the entire series at home. The club, led by López and second starter Sonny Gray, has a top pitching staff they haven’t had since Venezuelan Johan Santana and Brad Radke led the rotation at the beginning of the questionable streak in 2004.

This is the latest series in the wild card round. The Blue Jays have a pitching rotation that is at the same level. Twins starters have a collective ERA of 3.82, second best in the Major Leagues, behind the Padres. Toronto (3.85) is third.

The Blue Jays will have right-hander Kevin Gausman on the mound Tuesday, even though the 11-year veteran has had poor results in his past 11 starts against the Twins. He is 1-4 with a 6.35 ERA and a .286 batting average.

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“I can right the ship,” said Gausman, who lost his start to Seattle in last year’s wild-card series.

The Twins set a single-season record with 1,654 strikeouts, an average of 10.2 per game. Gausman remains in the majors with 237 strikeouts.

Minnesota did not provide details on the condition of its stars Byron Buxton, Carlos Correa and Royce Lewis. All three have spent the past two weeks recovering from injuries. Buxton’s absence was longer due to a knee problem that kept him from playing center field.

Puerto Rican Correa (plantar fasciitis) assured that he has done “almost everything” recently and just accepted that he will be included in the first game. Lewis, sidelined by a hamstring injury he suffered on Sept. 19, appears to serve as the designated hitter if he can’t defend third base. But his tone was cautious.

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Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins praised Mexican catcher Alejandro Kirk’s fastball performance, saying it was one of the highlights of the campaign. He emphasized personality, handled pitchers well and contained opposing runners.

“He was secretly the MVP last month, for everything he gave us,” Gausman said.

The Blue Jays have a lot of fans because the border is less than six hours away. Former Twins Justin Morneau, a native of British Columbia, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the second game.

Nation World News Desk
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