Twins seek series split with Blue Jays (Sep 17, 2017)

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins have officially been eliminated in the American League Central race following Saturday’s 7-2 loss to Toronto.

The Twins’ playoff hopes, however, are still very much alive.

Minnesota remains in control of the second spot in the American League wild card spot, one game ahead of the Los Angeles Angels, heading into Sunday’s series finale against the Blue Jays.

After Sunday, the Twins head to New York for three games with the Yankees — the team that sits five games ahead of them in the wild-card race.

The Twins would love to have slugger Miguel Sano in the lineup for the last two weeks of the regular season, but his return remains a question mark. He’s been sidelined since Aug. 19 with a stress reaction in his left shin.

“The reality is that I’m not as encouraged today as I was when we first got home because I had heard about some of the things he had done prior to our return, and it just hasn’t been a great week,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said Saturday.

Minnesota’s offense had been chugging along just fine without Sano before tallying only three hits Saturday. The Twins hope to bounce back Sunday and split the four-game series.

The Twins will send right-hander Kyle Gibson to the mound Sunday. Gibson (10-10, 4.97 ERA) has pitched well of late, going 4-0 with a 1.38 ERA in his last five starts.

Gibson faced — and beat — the Blue Jays earlier this year. He allowed two runs in 6 2/3 innings in Toronto on Aug. 27. He’s 2-1 with a 4.45 ERA in five career starts against the Blue Jays.

Toronto will counter with right-hander Joe Biagini (3-10, 5.07 ERA). Biagini picked up the loss in that Aug. 27 game when he gave up five runs in 3 2/3 innings. It’s the only time in his career that Biagini has started against Minnesota, but has faced the Twins twice as a reliever. He’s 0-1 with a 9.53 ERA lifetime versus Minnesota.

Biagini started the season as a reliever, then made 11 starts for Toronto before going back to the bullpen.

Sunday marks his fifth start since returning to the rotation. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said he hopes Biagini’s remaining few starts will help make the decision easier when determining where to slot Biagini.

“He’s probably going to get about three more starts,” Gibbons said. “I think that’ll help make a decision for next year, what his role is. He’s already proved he can be really good out of the bullpen.”

Biagini is 2-9 with a 5.40 ERA as a starter this season and 1-1 with a 4.26 ERA in 26 relief appearances.