The Minnesota Twins will aim to play spoiler this weekend in Toronto.
It’s been a minute since the Twins danced with the Blue Jays -- they last squared off versus each other in 2019 -- but they’ve gotten used to beating on their neighbors up north.
Minnesota’s 8-1 mark at Rogers Centre tops all AL clubs since 2017.
Of course, there’s no path to the postseason for the Twins this year, which means they’ll settle for the next best thing: trying to extinguish baseball’s hottest team.
Toronto’s 13-2 record in September stands alone in MLB. It has launched the Blue Jays back into the heart of playoff contention as one of the American League’s two wild-card teams. Their dominance has been buoyed by a dangerous lineup, led by MVP candidate Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who owns the AL's highest batting average (.317) and a share of the top home-run count (45) in the big leagues.
Infielders Bo Bichette and Marcus Semien, and outfielder Teoscar Hernandez round out the Blue Jays’ fearsome foursome -- it’s the first quartet to each be responsible for 25+ long balls and 90+ RBI since the Twins and Phillies accomplished the feat in 2009.
You’re probably wondering, so here’s Minnesota’s murderers’ row of sluggers from that season, in descending order of big flies: Michael Cuddyer (32/94), Justin Morneau (30/100), Jason Kubel (28/103) and Joe Mauer (28/96).
Toronto’s monster bats have helped the club average eight runs in its last 15 games. If the Blue Jays manage to maintain that scary pace the rest of September -- they’re more than halfway home -- they’ll become just the fifth team in the live-ball era to score 8+ runs per contest in a single month. Boston was the last team to do so … all the way back in 1950.
Minnesota might not have the resources to defuse Toronto’s bombs in this three-game set but they just might match them.
The Twins closely trail the Blue Jays in terms of highest percentage of hits for home runs in 2021. Toronto ranks third overall at 17.7% behind Atlanta (18.6%) and San Francisco (18.1%). Minnesota is tied for fourth in that department, kissing 17.4% of their hits goodbye.
On the Twins’ side is a slugger keen with crushing at Rogers Centre: third baseman Josh Donaldson.
The “Bringer of Rain” thundered 30 or more home runs in three consecutive seasons for the Blue Jays (2015-17) before being shipped from Toronto to Cleveland during the 2018 campaign.
Donaldson leads all active players with 63 dingers at the Blue Jays’ ballpark.
Two other deep shot aficionados for the Twins are first baseman Miguel Sanó and switch-hitting dynamo Jorge Polanco.
Sanó has 28 jacks to his name and a higher hard-hit rate (55.5%) than Vladdy Jr. (54.9%). Polanco has driven 20 of his 30 homers outside of Target Field and owns a .599 slugging percentage on the road, to boot.
Keep your eyes peeled on the warning track at Rogers Centre.
-- Polanco has more extra-base knocks (13) than anyone in September. He’s collected six home runs, 10 RBI and four multi-hit games, including one with a shot and three doubles since the flip of the calendar.
-- Twins projected starter Michael Pineda may want to depend on pitches other than his four-seam fastball Friday night. Among pitchers with a minimum of 900 four-seam deliveries since 2020, Pineda’s .323 opponent batting average ranks second worst in MLB.
-- Minnesota boasts a seven-game win streak on Blue Jays turf. The club’s most recent loss in Toronto came in a 10-9 decision on Aug. 26, 2017, a tilt that featured an eighth-inning Max Kepler grand slam.
Statistics courtesy Sportradar