Twins beat Toronto; Pineda impresses with his professionalism

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When the Twins released Matt Shoemaker and traded away José Berríos and J.A. Happ this summer, their starting rotation lost most of its veteran presence.

Except for Michael Pineda, the 32-year-old who pitched Thursday in the Twins' 7-2 victory over Toronto at Target Field.

Pineda is now surrounded by rookie pitchers, such as 25-year-old Joe Ryan and 26-year-olds Bailey Ober and Griffin Jax. And it's up to him to show just how a starter should play.

Like on Thursday, when he lasted five innings, allowing eight hits but only two runs.

"The way Mike shows the rest of our group how to handle things on the field, in the clubhouse, the way he treats his teammates, the way he goes about everything, Mike's — we talk about his consistency in performance. He's a consistent human being," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "You know what you're getting every single day. He brings a little flair along with what he does. He kind of makes you smile when you get a chance to spend some time around him and listen to him. I think he puts people at ease. ...

"Having a guy like that that you can lean on is very real and brings a lot of value, and I think our young players especially take a lot from being around him."

Consistent is a good word for Pineda, who has a 3.73 ERA this season. When he's on the mound, he rarely makes mistakes. The problem is, he's not always on the mound. He's missed a number of games while on the injury list, dealing with ailments such as having an abscess removed to an oblique strain.

With him in the game Thursday, though, the Twins roadblocked Toronto in its wild-card chase. The Blue Jays entered Thursday a half-game behind the New York Yankees and had a chance to pull even with a victory. Instead, they're a full game behind now.

Toronto took the lead first in the second inning, with Teoscar Hernandez and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., hitting back-to-back doubles off Pineda.

The Twins made it 2-1 in the third inning. Byron Buxton hit a leadoff double before Jorge Polanco's RBI single. Polanco later came home on Mitch Garver's base hit. Toronto leveled the score in the fourth from Hernandez's solo home run, but the Twins' breakout inning in the fifth built a formidable lead.

Toronto starter Steven Matz lasted just three innings, giving up seven hits and two runs. His successor, Thomas Hatch, pitched that fifth inning, walking Josh Donaldson and giving up a double to Garver. Luis Arraez sacrificed himself to score Donaldson, and Brent Rooker walked.

That's when Nick Gordon stepped up to slam a three-run homer. He garnered another RBI in the seventh inning, sending Rooker home after the designated hitter banked a shot off the right-field deck.

Max Kepler left the game ahead of the fifth inning, making way for Arraez in left field and shifting Gordon to right. A team spokesman said Kepler left the game with a non-COVID illness.

Toronto also lost a player to injury in the fifth inning, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. A teammate appeared to have stepped on the outfielder's hand after making a play, the cleat causing Gurriel's hand to bleed.

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