Blue Jays send Jose Berrios out in search of series win against Twins

Toronto Blue Jays starter Jose Berrios pitches during a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays Tuesday, May 23, 2023, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (Steve Nesius/AP)

Former Minnesota Twins right-hander Jose Berrios will try to help the visiting Toronto Blue Jays take the rubber match of a three-game series against his former team Sunday afternoon in Minneapolis.

Berrios (4-4, 4.22 ERA) will make his fifth start against the Twins since they traded him to Toronto July 30, 2021. He is 2-1 with a 5.01 ERA against Minnesota. The game can be seen on Sportsnet and SN NOW at 2:10 p.m. ET / 11:10 a.m. PT.

After winning the series opener 3-1 Friday night despite sloppy base-running, the Blue Jays had their comeback fall short in a 9-7 loss on Saturday.

Willi Castro hit a two-run homer and a solo shot for Minnesota and Matt Wallner had a career-best four-hit game that included a homer and a two-run single.

Toronto lost centre-fielder Kevin Kiermaier (back discomfort) after two innings Saturday. He appeared to be uncomfortable after making a throw in the second inning and is considered day-to-day. He will not start Sunday.

“It tightened up a little on that throw,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said. “With Kev and how important he is to us, we wanted to be safe and make sure we didn’t make anything worse.”

Kiermaier, known for his ability to scale walls to make catches, may have been missed in the fifth inning.

Minnesota hit back-to-back homers in the fifth to take a 7-4 lead, both barely clearing the wall in centre. Daulton Varsho, who moved from left field to replace Kiermaier in centre, nearly made leaping catches on both.

On Castro’s two-run shot, Varsho had the ball bounce out of his glove as he hit the wall and then the ball hit the top of the wall before going over.

Wallner followed with a homer to left centre that went off Varsho’s glove as he reached over the wall.

“It’s just one of those things where it’s an all-or-nothing play,” Varsho said. “It was in my glove and then I hit the wall and it bounced out. Both times. It’s one of those things where you live and die by it.”

A series win would provide a needed boost for the Blue Jays, who have three wins in their past 13 games and are playing subpar fundamental baseball. The Twins need a win Sunday to complete a six-game homestand with a split.

Minnesota is scheduled to start right-hander Bailey Ober (3-1, 2.55), who is 1-1 with a 4.82 ERA in two previous career starts against Toronto, both in 2021.

Castro, who had his first career multi-homer game, and Wallner, who added an outfield assist to his three RBIs, are examples of Minnesota players taking advantage of opportunities created by recent injuries. So are Edouard Julien, who had two doubles and a homer, and Alex Kirilloff, who had two singles and an RBI groundout.

Other than Castro, all have spent time in Triple-A St. Paul this season.

“When you call guys up, you’re looking for them to help you win a game and then they just take over the game and do that, that’s a bonus,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “These guys, they’re good players. We know that. We knew we’re going to rely on them at some point in the year and that time is now.”

Julien, born in Quebec City, grew up following the Blue Jays.

“Felt great, and especially to do it in front of Toronto, all these fans, and to do it against Toronto,” Julien said.

— Field Level Media

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