Blue Jays vs. Twins Preview: Series starts with two tough pitching matchups

Jamie Campbell and Caleb Joseph break down Alejandro Kirk's day behind and at the plate with a double to tie the game in the fifth inning, and the presence of mind to go for the back pick to get a crucial out in the seventh inning.

The surging Toronto Blue Jays will look for their fifth series win in a row when they host the slumping Minnesota Twins this weekend at Rogers Centre.

Toronto’s current 10-3 run, on the heels of a 2-9 stretch against American League East rivals, started in Minnesota when the Blue Jays won two out of three against the Twins.

It won’t be easy for Toronto to continue its winning ways as the pitching matchups for the first two games are not favourable — more below.

Here’s a look at the series.

Probable Pitchers

Friday, 7:07 p.m. ET / 4:07 p.m. PT: Toronto LHP Yusei Kikuchi (6-2, 4.40 ERA) vs. Minnesota RHP Sonny Gray (4-1, 2.15 ERA)

Saturday, 3:07 p.m. ET / 12:07 p.m. PT: TBD vs. Minnesota RHP Joe Ryan (7-3, 2.76 ERA)

Sunday, 1:37 p.m. ET / 10:37 a.m. PT: Toronto RHP Kevin Gausman (5-3, 2.63 ERA) vs. Minnesota RHP Louie Varland (3-2, 4.40 ERA)

All games on Sportsnet and Sportsnet NOW.

Latest on the Blue Jays

The Blue Jays (36-28) are coming off a 3-1 series victory over the reigning World Series champion Houston Astros at Rogers Centre.

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After yet another disastrous start by Alek Manoah on Monday and his subsequent demotion on Tuesday, the Blue Jays responded with three wins in a row thanks in large part to strong starts from Kevin Gausman, Chris Bassitt and Jose Berrios.

They all went at least six innings — leaving the Blue Jays’ bullpen relatively fresh for a weekend in which the team likely will have to use more relievers.

Offensively, Brandon Belt continued his strong play with the go-ahead RBI single on Thursday in a 3-2 win.

The Blue Jays are fourth in the East, 9.5 games behind the MLB-leading Tampa Bay Rays.

Toronto is a half-game behind the Astros for the final wild-card spot and won the all-important tiebreaker against Houston by taking the season series 4-3.

Latest on the Twins

If the season ended today, the Blue Jays would be going home and the Twins (31-32) would be going to the playoffs.

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As unfair as that may seem, the Twins have the good fortune of playing in the weak AL Central, where they are 1.5 games ahead of the second-place Cleveland Guardians.

The Twins come to Toronto on a five-game losing streak after dropping three games in Tampa this week.

A 4-2 loss on Thursday was the sixth game in a row in which Minnesota has scored two or fewer runs. The seven runs in those games is the lowest total for the Twins in a six-game stretch in 12 years.

Thursday’s game also featured trouble for starter Bailey Obor, who was told to wash his hands after a foreign substance inspection before taking the mound in the fourth.

Obor was perfect through three innings before the Rays cashed in three in the fourth.

Mound Mismatches?

The Twins’ two best starters — Gray and Ryan — go in the first two games for Minnesota, while Toronto counters with fifth starter Kikuchi and Mr. TBD.

Triple-A callup Bowden Francis is ticketed to pitch a chunk of Saturday’s game in Manoah’s normal spot. Whether he starts or follows an opener remains up in the air.

Gray, third in the majors in ERA, and Ryan did not face the Blue Jays in the series in Minnesota.

Minnesota has the second-best team ERA in the majors, making up to an extent for an offence that ranks 22nd in OPS.

Injury Report

Blue Jays centre-fielder Kevin Kiermaier exited with a left wrist contusion after getting hit by a pitch on Thursday. Initial X-rays were negative and it’s unclear if he’ll miss time.

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Blue Jays catcher Danny Jansen (left groin strain) is on a rehab assignment this weekend with triple-A Buffalo and could return next week.

The Twins lost second baseman Jorge Polanco to left hamstring tightness after he was hurt running the bases on Thursday. He is considered day-to-day — and there has to be some concern after Polanco missed 11 games with an injury to the same hamstring earlier this year.

Twins DH Byron Buxton (left rib contusion) is on the 10-day IL. He’s second on the team with 10 home runs.

Heating up

Blue Jays catcher Alejandro Kirk, pressed into more playing time with Jansen out, is hitting .341 (14-for-41) over his past 13 games after a slow start to the season.

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Tyler Heineman would be a good bet to start Saturday for a day game after a night game. He also has familiarity with Francis from their time at triple-A.

Up Next

The Blue Jays are off Monday before beginning a tough nine-game road swing with a three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles.

All three opponents on the road trip — the others are the Texas Rangers and Miami Marlins — currently are in playoff positions.

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