The Toronto Blue Jays will take on the Minnesota Twins in the American League Wild Card Round in the 2023 MLB playoffs. Toronto did enough down the stretch to bank wins and snag a Wild Card spot, although they did back in while taking a couple of rough losses at home against the Rays last weekend. Minnesota, meanwhile, toyed with its food in the weak AL Central during the summer before catching fire in September, winning 18 of their last 20 games.
Let’s take a look at the starting pitchers for the best-of-5 series.
Blue Jays vs. Twins starting pitchers
Game 1: Kevin Gausman (12-9, 3.16 ERA)
Game 2: Chris Bassitt (16-8, 3.60 ERA)
Game 3: Jose Berrios (11-12, 3.65 ERA)
Game 1 is about as easy a decision as a manager could hope to have: Kevin Gausman has been one of the very best pitchers in baseball this year, a Cy Young candidate in a world where Gerrit Cole doesn’t exist and the AL’s leader in strikeouts with a whopping 237. He’s also been dialed in of late, coming into this start riding a 13-inning scoreless streak with 15 Ks over that span. He’s had mixed results against Minnesota this year, throwing 5.1 innings of one-run ball with eight strikeouts in late May but getting shelled for six runs in 4.2 frames in June.
The real question is whether Bassitt or Berrios gets the nod in Game 2. We’re giving Bassitt the nod here, largely because of how good he’s looked in September — with a 2.60 ERA overall and a 7.2-inning shutout with 12 Ks against the Yankees last week. He, too, got hit around by the Twins in his one start against Minnesota, allowing seven runs on nine hits over four innings in late May.
Berrios falls to Game 3 here, but the righty — and former Twin — is certainly no slouch, serving as a rock in Toronto’s rotation for much of the year. He had a bumpy second half, though, with a 4.40 ERA and five starts of four or more earned runs allowed — including each of his last two to close the season.
Game 1: Pablo Lopez
Game 2: Sonny Gray
Game 3: Joe Ryan
The Twins have an embarrassment of starting pitching riches, but it’ll be Lopez who gets the ball opposite Gausman in Game 1. The righty caught fire in the second half, posting a 2.79 ERA over his last 13 starts — including a span of 19 scoreless innings in August.
For as unimpeachable a choice as Lopez is, though, there’s an argument to be made that Gray was even better over the season as a whole, finishing second only to Cole in ERA among qualified AL starters. He was particularly strong in September, with a 2.00 ERA over five outings (including three quality starts) last month.
Ryan has pitched well enough to have earned the third starter spot over guys like Bailey Ober and Kenta Maeda, but it was just barely. The righty looked like a Cy Young dark horse in the first half, with a 3.42 ERA through the month of June ... and then the home run problems started. Ryan’s ERA from July 9 on was an ugly 6.41, and he allowed 18 homers in 59 innings over that span. He did throw a quality start against the Jays in May, though, throwing six innings of three-run ball.