José Berríos made another solid start. Alejandro Kirk delivered a timely hit. Daulton Varsho did a little bit of everything.
The Toronto Blue Jays took another step toward a turnaround at the end of a rough month, posting their first series win in four tries in well-rounded fashion.
Berríos pitched around a season-high five walks and into the sixth inning for Toronto to beat his old team, and the Blue Jays blanked the Minnesota Twins 3-0 on Sunday.
“Hopefully, this kind of springboards us forward,” manager John Schneider said after the Blue Jays played their 17th game in 17 days.
Kirk hit a two-run single in the second inning that held up for Berríos (5-4), who has allowed two or fewer runs in seven of his past nine turns after a rough start.
Varsho scored all the way from first base on Kirk’s hit. Handling centre field for Kevin Kiermaier – the day after he twice had a leaping catch attempt turn into a Twins home run when those balls bounced off his glove and into the grass berm – Varsho was superb. He assisted on the third out of the fourth inning when he fielded a single and threw out Alex Kirilloff at third.
Then in the eighth, Varsho jumped above the centre-field wall to take a homer away from Carlos Correa.
“For as magnified as he was yesterday, I’m thrilled that he gets to be celebrated today,” Schneider said.
Jordan Romano recorded his 12th save with a scoreless ninth, allowing a two-out single to rookie Matt Wallner. He was 2 for 2 with two walks and has reached base in eight straight plate appearances.
The Blue Jays (28-26), who are in last place in the AL East, are just 10-17 in their past 27 games.
“You’re going to go through a rough stretch at some point during the year, and for us it’s like right now,” Varsho said. “Hopefully we can get hot here and finish off the year strong.”
With Alek Manoah struggling at the top of the rotation, the Blue Jays need several more starts like this from Berríos, who was traded by the Twins at the deadline two years ago. The right-hander, who is 3-1 with a 2.30 ERA in his past five starts, helped lead a players-only meeting on Thursday after the Blue Jays lost three out of four to division leader Tampa Bay.
“It’s just on us to stay back, get relaxed and try to be ourselves,” Berrios said.
Bailey Ober (3-2) finished five innings for Minnesota for the fourth time in five May starts, with seven strikeouts in a bad-luck loss.
The Twins (27-26) had their lead in the AL Central cut to one game over Detroit (25-26). They’ve led the division for 58 of 60 days this season.
“Every time the opportunities were in front of us, every time there was something we could have done, it felt like we went in the wrong direction,” manager Rocco Baldelli said.
Twins rookie Edouard Julien, a native of Quebec City, whose favourite boyhood team was the Blue Jays, had a rough afternoon. He made a diving stop on Varsho’s two-out single in the second, but he dropped the ball before he could make the throw to first. The play was ruled a hit.
In the bottom of the inning, the Twins had the bases loaded with none out – for a few seconds. Julien rounded second base too far, ignoring the runner in front of him, and was thrown out by the catcher Kirk.
“Those are mental cramps right there,” Baldelli said.
Blue Jays: Kiermaier was on the bench after being removed from the game on Saturday with discomfort in his right lower back. “All things are trending in the right direction,” Schneider said.
Twins: RHP Emilio Pagán was pulled with a strained left-hip flexor after seven pitches in the seventh.
Blue Jays: LHP Yusei Kikuchi (5-2, 4.56 ERA) starts on Tuesday night against Milwaukee after a return home and a day off. RHP Adrian Houser (1-0, 2.25 ERA) takes the mound for the Brewers.
Twins: RHP Sonny Gray (4-0, 1.82 ERA) pitches the opener of a three-game series at Houston on Monday afternoon. RHP J.P France (1-1, 3.43 ERA) starts for the Astros.