MINNEAPOLIS — Kevin Gausman sat with a despondent look at his locker Tuesday night, ice packs strapped to his shoulder and knee, sipping a can of light beer as he gently stretched his fingers.
The starter's missed opportunity had started to sink in.
Gausman gave up two homers to Royce Lewis in a brief four-inning appearance as the Blue Jays dropped a 3-1 decision to the Minnesota Twins. The loss left Toronto in must-win territory for the rest of the best-of-three American League wild-card series.
"Obviously not one of my best starts of the year," Gausman said. "Walking the leadoff hitter of the game is never how you want to start off. And looking back, obviously too many pitches thrown and too many deep counts."
Game 2 is scheduled for Wednesday at Target Field. As the higher-seeded team, the AL Central Division champion Twins would also host Game 3, if necessary, on Thursday.
After speaking to reporters, Gausman walked back to the locker-room for a post-game meal. He was still shaking his head as he glanced at the television showing the day's baseball highlights.
"I think it was two fastballs that he kind of just yanked a little bit to Lewis," said Blue Jays manager John Schneider.
"Other than that they grinded him pretty hard, whether it was walks or laying off some really good pitches."
Minnesota ended an 18-game playoff losing streak with the win. Toronto's post-season skid stretched to six games.
"It was the most nervous game, exciting game, I've ever played in my life," Lewis said. "It was so much fun."
Twins starter Pablo Lopez was effective over his 5 2/3-inning appearance, giving up one earned run, five hits and two walks while striking out three. Jhoan Duran walked Whit Merrifield in the ninth inning before locking down the save.
Toronto had opportunities but couldn't deliver a big offensive moment. Kevin Kiermaier drove in Bo Bichette with the Blue Jays' lone run in the sixth inning.
Matt Chapman nearly provided a go-ahead three-run shot later in the frame but his drive was snagged at the top of the wall by Michael A. Taylor.
The Blue Jays outhit the Twins 6-5. Toronto left nine runners on base, one more than Minnesota.
Gausman, who was 12-9 in the regular season, gave up three earned runs, three hits and three walks while striking out five. He threw 43 of 73 pitches for strikes.
With Quebec City native Edouard Julien aboard after a leadoff walk in the first, Lewis turned on a full-count pitch that put a charge into the announced crowd of 38,450.
The two-run blast gave Minnesota a lead it wouldn't relinquish. The Twins' last playoff win came on Oct. 5, 2004 in Game 1 of the AL Division Series against New York.
"I thought the place was going to split open and melt," said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli.
The spectators frequently gave Gausman the gears, slowly chanting his surname and booing when he'd ask for a new ball or struggled with his PitchCom electronic pitch-calling device.
Lewis, a 2017 first overall draft pick, led off the bottom of the third by belting a 3-1 pitch off the facing of the second deck in right field.
"I've tried to stretch my vocabulary and drop all the great adjectives," Baldelli said. "I can't believe sometimes the things that he's doing, they're that impressive."
Lopez, meanwhile, didn't allow a hit until Bichette hit a one-out single in the fourth.
Bichette later tried to score from second base when Kiermaier's infield single rolled under third baseman Jorge Polanco's glove. Shortstop Carlos Correa picked up the ball and fired a strike to Ryan Jeffers, who applied the tag for the third out.
"I thought it was worth a chance," Bichette said. "I thought he'd have to make a great play to get me out and he did."
Lewis got a standing ovation when he came to bat in the fifth inning. Reliever Erik Swanson gave him little to swing at, walking the designated hitter on five pitches.
It was Lewis's first appearance since straining a hamstring two weeks ago. Correa had been out since Sept. 18 with a foot issue.
The Blue Jays brought the potential tying run to the plate in the eighth inning after Vladimir Guerrero Jr. led off with a double. But Griffin Jax struck out a pair and got Alejandro Kirk to ground out.
Earlier in the day, the Blue Jays unveiled their 26-man wild-card series roster. Toronto went with 14 position players and 12 pitchers.
Infielder Davis Schneider and speedy backup outfielder Cam Eden made the cut. Veteran starter Hyun Jin Ryu and reliever Bowden Francis did not.
Jose Berrios was tabbed to start Game 2 for the Blue Jays against Sonny Gray. Chris Bassitt was expected to get the nod for Game 3 if it's needed.
The series winner will advance to the AL Division Series against the Houston Astros.
Lewis became the third player in big-league history to hit home runs in each of his first two playoff plate appearances, per the Elias Sports Bureau.
The others were Evan Longoria in 2008 with Tampa Bay and Gary Gaetti with the 1987 Twins.
The Twins and Blue Jays previously met in the 1991 AL Championship Series. Minnesota won in five games.
Toronto won the World Series the following year and repeated as champions in 1993.
Berrios gets a chance to play his former team in a playoff setting. The Toronto right-hander spent parts of six seasons with the Twins after being drafted by Minnesota in 2012.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 3, 2023.
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