Gausman is Jays ace and Game 1 starter, but Twins have had his number

Few teams have gotten much off Toronto's ace Kevin Gausman lately.

Except for the Twins.

Pitching for his fifth team in an 11-season MLB career, Gausman brings a 3.16 ERA and a 12-9 record to Game 1 of the American League wild-card series at Target Field on Tuesday.

He's struck out 237 batters in 185 innings this season but the Twins have scored seven runs in 10 innings off him — a 6.30 ERA — while he's walked nine and struck out 12 in his two starts against them.

"If you look at the numbers, they've always been tough on me over the course of my career," Gausman said. "For whatever reason that is, I don't know why, but I'm definitely excited to right the ship."

A small sampling of Twins players acknowledged their success against Gausman, but wouldn't spill their secrets.

Maybe it's as simple as not biting on Gausman's often devastating splitter.

Gausman is 1-1 with a 5.70 ERA in six career starts at Target Field. He's 1-4 with a 6.35 ERA lifetime against the Twins. Overall, he's 88-91 in his career with a 3.84 ERA with Toronto, Baltimore, Atlanta, Cincinnati and San Francisco.

He explains his starts against the Twins simply.

"They're usually always a good team since I've been in the big leagues," Gausman said. "They've just had a good approach. They've really battled me over the years."

Particularly in a June game at Rogers Center, where he allowed six earned runs on seven hits in 42⁄3 innings. Twins batters only swung and missed eight times in that game.

The Blue Jays still beat the Twins 7-6.

Sign up for our Twins Update newsletter

Toronto went 89-73 games and finished third behind Baltimore (101-61) and Tampa Bay (99-63) in the tough American League East. The Twins (87-75) won two fewer games, but took the American League Central by nine games over Detroit (78-84).

"This lineup can beat you in a lot of different ways," Gausman said about the Twins. "They have some good young guys who can really swing the bat and put the ball in play. I've played with Donovan Solano. I know what he's capable of, a really good professional hitter. A lot of left-handed hitters. Really top to bottom they can give you a hard time."

Blue Jays manager John Schneider didn't waste much time choosing Gausman as his Game 1 starter against Twins ace Pablo López.

"Pretty simple really, his body of work and wanting a guy to set the tone you'd like to have against anybody," Schneider said. "You like your chances against anybody in the league with him. It's a cool thing for him and we're excited as a staff to have him go out there."

Gausman, 32, called the opportunity to start a playoff game a "dream of mine," particularly Game 1.

Until the Blue Jays clinched a playoff spot on Saturday, Gausman didn't know if he'd be pitching Sunday with the season on the line.

"It's hard to prepare like I was pitching 162," he said.

Gausman has been so chill at this stage of his career that teammate George Springer wonders how he does it sometimes.

"It just look like he doesn't have a heartbeat," said Springer, who won a World Series with Houston. "He's always so calm. He's always so collected. It's really hard to do what he does. Everyone knows what he is going to do. The hard part is you don't know just what it is. He knows how to navigate the zone. He knows how to navigate his velocity. To have him going first day is big for us."

Gausman countered Springer's contention and said whatever calm he projects comes from experience and pitching 11 seasons in the big leagues.

"I definitely have a heartbeat out there," he said. "It's pumping, that's for sure."