The Minnesota Twins aim to ride the momentum of the successful debuts by a pair of newcomers into the opener of their four-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday in Minneapolis.
Sandy Leon had a two-run double among his two hits and All-Star closer Jorge Lopez retired the side in the ninth inning to secure a save in the Twins' 4-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday.
Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli credited Leon's experience as a boon for his team.
"The game is a challenging game but when you have someone back there who knows what the best thing to do is at that moment, and you feel good about it," Baldelli said. "And everyone out there from the pitchers to the rest of the team ... knows that and has a ton of confidence in his decision-making and the way he handles people, the way he handles situations. It's uplifting."
Leon and Lopez were acquired from the Cleveland Guardians and Baltimore Orioles, respectively, prior to the trade deadline on Tuesday.
All-Star Byron Buxton is 11-for-34 (.324) with three homers, three RBIs and nine runs in his last 10 games. He went 3-for-5 with a double, homer and two RBIs in Minnesota's 9-3 romp over Toronto on June 3.
The Twins won two of the three games in that series and three of their last five contests overall.
Minnesota right-hander Sonny Gray (6-3, 3.41 ERA) looks to record his third straight strong outing on Thursday.
Gray, 32, scattered two hits and allowed just one run over six innings of a 9-1 win against Detroit on July 24 before permitting one run and five hits in five frames of a 7-4 triumph at San Diego six days later.
He is 4-4 with a 3.20 ERA in 13 career appearances (12 starts) versus Toronto.
Teoscar Hernandez had an RBI double in the first inning and belted a solo homer in the fourth of the Blue Jays' 3-2 setback to the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday afternoon. The loss was just the fourth in the last 17 games for Toronto.
The Blue Jays played without two-time All-Star Whit Merrifield, who was acquired in a trade with the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday. Whitfield didn't suit up for the Royals when they played in Toronto during the teams' series on July 14-17.
"Obviously we knew he wasn't there (with the Royals) in Toronto, but it's a personal choice for him," interim Blue Jays manager John Schneider said. "I'm sure he's had conversations with his family and other people. So we're looking forward to having him (Thursday) in Minnesota."
Slugger George Springer's availability also is in question after he missed his third straight game due to a sore right elbow.
"Just making sure we're not pushing too hard and he's not pushing too hard," Toronto general manager Ross Atkins said. "We're not overly concerned and very confident we'll be able to manage it."
Blue Jays right-hander Alek Manoah (11-5, 2.43) is slated to start the series opener.
Manoah, 24, fell to 2-3 in his last five outings after yielding four runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings of a 4-2 setback on Friday versus Detroit.
He won his lone career encounter against Minnesota on Sept. 26, allowing two runs on six hits in 5 2/3 innings of a 5-2 victory. He struck out eight in the victory.
--Field Level Media