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Royce Lewis helps Twins beat Jays, end playoff skid

MINNEAPOLIS — Before he stepped to the plate for his first postseason at-bat, Minnesota Twins designated hitter Royce Lewis took an extra moment to absorb the sights and sounds of Target Field.

It was something that Twins great Joe Mauer advised him to do earlier in the day. The pair traded text messages, and Mauer wanted Lewis to savor every moment of his playoff debut.

“We’ve had a heck of a season, and I just wanted to take it all in,” said Lewis, 24. “He said that’s one thing that he would do. Take it in and don’t regret the moment that you’re in.”

Lewis proved to be more than ready for the moment. He homered in each of his first two career postseason at-bats, and the Twins held on for a 3-1 win over the visiting Toronto Blue Jays in Game 1 of their American League wild-card series on Tuesday afternoon.

The victory snapped a record 18-game playoff losing streak for Minnesota — the longest postseason skid ever for a team in the four major North American sports leagues. It was the franchise’s first win in the postseason since Oct. 5, 2004, against the New York Yankees.

Twins right-hander Pablo Lopez (1-0) limited the Blue Jays to one run on five hits in 5 2/3 innings. He walked two and struck out three.

“This game meant a lot to us for many, many reasons,” Lopez said. “The way I see it, now we have a new streak going. We’re 1-0, and that’s the one we’re going to focus on right now.”

The teams will meet again Wednesday afternoon in Game 2 of the best-of-three series at Minneapolis.

Lewis became only the third player in big-league history to homer in the first two playoff at-bats of his career. He joined Evan Longoria, who did so in 2008 with the Tampa Bay Rays, and Gary Gaetti, who accomplished the feat in 1987 with Minnesota.

Twins closer Jhoan Duran pitched a scoreless ninth to record his first career playoff save.

Blue Jays right-hander Kevin Gausman (0-1) labored through four innings before giving way to the bullpen. He allowed three runs on three hits and three walks, and he fanned five.

Minnesota grabbed a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Lewis worked a full count against Gausman and drilled a two-run, line-drive home run into the left field bleachers.

Two innings later, Lewis struck again. He lifted a solo shot to right-center field to make it 3-0.

The Blue Jays cut the deficit to 3-1 in the sixth. Kevin Kiermaier ripped an opposite-field single to left to drive in Bo Bichette from second base.

Michael A. Taylor helped the Twins preserve their lead with a pair of highlight-reel catches in center field. He made a diving grab in the second to rob Alejandro Kirk of a hit, and he made a leaping catch at the wall in the sixth to steal extra bases from Matt Chapman.

Blue Jays manager John Schneider said his team had no reason to dwell on the narrow defeat.

“I thought overall, we played a good game and didn’t get the breaks that we needed to,” Schneider said. “But I think that this group — overall, you look at the body of work and how many times we’ve been in this situation. It seems like a lot, and I know they’re going to come out ready (in Game 2).”

–Tom Musick, Field Level Media

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