The Twins advance with a 2-0 win for the first time in 21 years, edging out the Blue Jays behind Gray, Correa

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Carlos Correa contributed an RBI single and a quick-twitch tag off a pickoff throw from Sonny Gray, and the Minnesota Twins defeated the Toronto Blue Jays with a 2-0 win in Game 2 of their AL Wild Card Series Wednesday.

The Twins managed – for the first time in 21 years – to face the reigning World Series champion Astros. Game 1 of the best-of-five AL Division Series takes place on Saturday in Houston.

It’s familiar territory for Correa, who played seven seasons with Houston before signing with Minnesota in free agency. Correa helped the Astros to three World Series appearances and won it all in 2017, and he appears to be working on another memorable October.

The two-time All-Star, who went 3 for 7 on a hit-by-pitch in the Wild Card Series, ripped a bases-loaded single in a two-run fourth. Despite being outscored 15-12 by the Blue Jays in the two games, the patient Twins delivered exactly what they needed and sat back to watch their bullpen dominate with 7 1/3 scoreless innings in the series .

Jhoan Duran, after an extensive examination of his hand by Minnesota’s medical staff, struck out on his warmup throws in the ninth to spark celebrations around the mound.

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The Blue Jays, who lost their seventh straight playoff game since the AL Championship Series in 2016, left nine runners on base after stranding nine men in Game 1. Matt Chapman had a liner go just shy of fouling out before grounding in an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the sixth against Caleb Thielbar.

Minnesota, after stopping a record 18 postseason games, failed with the 3-1 win in game 1ended a nine-round losing streak that began with an ALCS loss in 2002. The Atlanta Braves (2001-2019) and Chicago Cubs (1910-1998) share the All-time mark with 10 lost series in a row.

The Blue Jays hit the ball hard again and had Gray working toward his first career playoff win, but the veteran right-hander finished five effective innings. He had three strikeouts in the bottom of the inning before making a nifty move in the fifth when he was most in trouble.

Gray threw a wild pitch after a single by George Springer and a two-out walk by Vladimir Guerrero Jr., putting runners on second and third. But as he gave Bo Bichette a full count, Gray turned and threw to shortstop Correa, who grabbed the ball and brushed Guerrero’s chest with his glove a split second before Guerrero’s hand touched the base.

The sellout crowd of 38,518 was even more immersed in the action than in Game 1, eagerly awaiting the end of each Twins inning and thriving on the bulldog energy Gray brought to the mound. During the regular season, he ranked third in the Major Leagues in ERA (2.79) and logged 184 innings, his most since 2015.

Gray, who will be eligible for free agency after the World Series, became emotional in his pregame press conference Tuesday as he talked about the motivation he gets from his two boys. His son Declan even gave his father an ultimatum before the series: “You better not lose.”

Blue Jays starter Jose Berríos pitched three scoreless innings against his former team, but manager John Schneider kept his promise that the entire pitching staff, with the exception of Game 1 starter Kevin Gausman, was available to pitch try to extend the series.

Schneider passed the right-hander Berríos after a walk-by Game 1 star Royce Lewis in the fourth inning. Left-hander Yusei Kikuchi, one of four Blue Jays to make 31 or more starts this season, was greeted with a single by Max Kepler. Pinch-hitter Donovan Solano walked, Correa gave the Twins the lead with his single, and pinch-hitter Willi Castro’s double-play groundout put another run on the board.

Lewis, whose recovering hamstring strain limits him to use as a designated hitter, hit a slow roller down the third base line in his first at-bat that sparked a sprint out of the box. The ball rolled uncontrollably, making his effort irrelevant. Then, when he hit a grounder straight to shortstop for an inning-ending double play, he cautiously jogged to first at about half speed.

Minnesota’s postseason losing streak began in 2002 with the Angels and has included the Yankees six times, in the divisional rounds in 2003, 2004, 2009, 2010 and 2019, and in a single wild-card game in 2017. The Twins also lost a divisional series to the A’s in the in 2006 and a wild card series to the Astros in 2020. Their division tiebreaker win over the Tigers in 2009 was considered part of the regular season.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Brian Ashcraft

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