MLB Playoffs: Blue Jays vs. Twins AL Wild Card prediction and preview

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Toronto Blue Jays vs. Minnesota Twins Wild Card Preview

Pressure is inevitable in the MLB playoffs because the games carry so much importance, but there is a lot more pressure on the Twins in the Wild Card Round than any other team. Minnesota has not won a playoff series since 2002. In fact, the Twins have not won a playoff game since 2004, going 0-15 in that span over six postseason appearances.

 

The Blue Jays were in the Wild Card Round in 2022 and 2020 and lost in sweeps both times, so they’re looking for their first playoff victory since 2016. That means we have a lot of juicy storylines in this playoff series with teams that haven’t found a whole lot of postseason success.

As I mentioned in my write-up for the Rangers/Rays series, I wouldn’t be surprised if MLB has plans down the line to alter the divisional format. The Twins have the fewest wins of any AL playoff team and they won the Central Division, so they are the home team for this series. The Jays went 89-73 in a much tougher division, while the Twins were the only team to finish with more than 78 wins in the Central and still went 87-75. But, the series is in the Twin Cities at Target Field and not at Rogers Centre in Toronto.

MLB Playoffs Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook

Blue Jays -105 / Twins -115

Blue Jays vs. Twins schedule and how to watch

Game 1: Tuesday October 3, 4:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Game 2: Wednesday October 4, 4:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Game 3: Thursday October 4, 4:30 p.m. ET (ESPN) (if necessary)

Pitching Matchups

(will be updated as teams announce rotations)

Game 1: Kevin Gausman vs. Pablo Lopez
Game 2: Chris Bassitt vs. Sonny Gray
Game 3: TBD vs. TBD

Blue Jays vs. Twins series preview

The Blue Jays played 93 games against teams .500 or better and finished 43-50 in those games, while the Twins only played 73 and finished 37-36. Minnesota was one of four teams with 50+ wins against teams with losing records, which is something that has hurt the AL Central teams in the past.

The key storylines in this series are pretty obvious to me. The first is how Toronto does against a right-handed-heavy Twins pitching staff. The Blue Jays only managed a .318 wOBA (14th) and a 103 wRC+ (11th) against right-handed pitching in the second staff, but they really had a hard time against above average or better righties, which is what they’ll get with Pablo Lopez, Sonny Gray, and either Joe Ryan or Bailey Ober in the three games of this series.

Toronto boasted a top-five offense against lefties in the second half, but the Twins don’t have any in the starting rotation and will likely only carry one in the bullpen in Caleb Thielbar. Add in some cooler weather in Minneapolis this week on Wednesday and Thursday (if Game 3 is needed) and we could see the Jays offense struggle.

The second storyline is that Minnesota led the league in strikeouts on the pitching side with 1,560, but also led the league in batting strikeouts with 1,654. The Blue Jays struck out the seventh-fewest times with 1,303 and their pitching staff was second to Minnesota’s with 1,528 punchies. Whichever team does a better job of making contact should have a leg up on the other.

The Twins were an anomaly in that a lot of their strikeout prowess came from the starting rotation. The bullpen ranked 21st in strikeouts. Toronto was actually similar, ranking 16th in relief punchouts. I don’t know if there’s a great bullpen edge in this series like we see in the other AL Wild Card series.

The wild card in the Wild Card series may be Toronto right-hander Chris Bassitt. Bassitt held the opposition to a 2.86 ERA and a .196/.274/.307 slash at home, while he allowed a 4.50 ERA with a .277/.326/.507 slash on the road. How he performs as the likely Game 2 starter for Toronto may ultimately define how this series plays out.

This is a tough series for me. It’s hard to say this about teams that collectively won 176 games, but I feel like I’ve been underwhelmed for long stretches of the season by both squads.

The name of the game in the playoffs is typically hitting the long ball. Minnesota was third with 233 of those, while Toronto was 16th with 188. That said, Toronto did hit 18 more homers on the road, as Rogers Centre played as a pitcher’s park this season. The Twins hit 118 HR at home and the Jays hit 103 on the road, so I’m not even sure that’s a huge advantage.

I think this is a close, low-scoring series. I lean ever so slightly with the Blue Jays, who were 3-10 against the Orioles and 86-63 against everybody else, so they were pretty darn good when not facing the best team in the AL. Not an official bet from me, though.

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