The Minnesota Twins will host the Houston Astros in the first series of the 2020 MLB Postseason. It will be a best-of-three series that will take place at Target Field beginning at 2:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday.
The Twins entered the final day of the regular season looking at the second, third, or fourth seed. They wound up with the third seed as the Chicago White Sox lost guaranteeing the Twins the American League Central crown. The Oakland A’s won though and ended the season in a tie with the Twins. By virtue of a better intradivision record, the A’s got the second seed. The Astros have been fairly set in the sixth seed for a week. They finished second in the AL West but had the worst record of the eight AL playoff teams.
Three keys to victory for the Houston Astros
The lineup needs to be deeper. The Astros have been one of the best offensive teams over the past three years. This year they haven’t been as scary. George Springer has been their best hitter and the only Astro with double-digit home runs (14). Michael Brantley has performed as expected sporting the second-highest OPS on the team (.840). Kyle Tucker has been very good as well, slashing .268/.325/.512 in his first “full season” in the majors, but he is three for his last 17 and was 2-12 in the playoffs last year with seven strikeouts. They will need Carlos Correa, Yuli Gurriel, and especially Jose Altuve to start hitting now after they all had subpar seasons.
Zack Greinke will have to set the tone. Without Justin Verlander, Greinke is the de facto ace of the staff. He will need to pitch well in Game 1 to take some pressure off the rest of the staff. Greinke hasn’t been great over the past month. He’s posted a 6.08 ERA in September and has allowed 35 hits in just 26 2/3 innings over five starts. If he can’t take the first game for the Astros, the onus will fall on unproven and inexperienced pitchers like…
Youngsters Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, Andre Scrubb, and Blake Taylor. All four of them have been excellent for Houston this season and are a large part of why the Astros are in the playoffs. Combined they have exactly zero innings pitched in the postseason. Without playoff veterans like Verlander and Roberto Osuna, the Astros will have to trust that their young guys can hold their own against a potent Twins lineup.
Three keys to victory for the Minnesota Twins
Score runs without the home run. The Twins are the only team in the AL to score more than half of their runs via the long ball. While they still have a scary lineup when it comes to power with 91 HRs this season, they were dead last in SBs and in the bottom half of the league in most offensive categories. Considering the Astros only allowed 70 HRs this season, fourth-fewest in the AL, the Twins will have to manufacture more runs by taking walks and extra bases.
Avoid Mistakes. The Twins have to play to a couple of their strengths: Defense and keeping the ball in the yard. These two go hand in hand as allowing extra outs and giving up the long ball is a bad combination, especially in a short series. The Twins have a team DRS of 24 this season and committed the fewest amount of errors in the AL with 20. Minnesota’s staff allowed only 62 HRs this season, fewest in the AL. They will need to continue playing solid defense especially because the Astros put the ball in play with the fewest strikeouts in the league (440).
The bullpen needs to be reliable. Taylor Rogers has been hittable this season allowing 26 hits in 20 innings. Tyler Clippard and Tyler Duffey have been very good this season, combining for 50 IP and only surrendering 32 hits and 10 walks while striking out 57. After that, it has been hit and miss for Rocco Baldelli‘s pen. He will need to be able to mix and match with confidence. With possibly three games on consecutive days, the depth will be tested.
Greinke vs. Kenta Maeda looks to be a pitcher’s duel in Game 1. With Greinke’s recent struggles, the Twins should score enough for Maeda. In Game 2, Jose Berrios will likely face Valdez. The Twins don’t hit lefties well so it will be incumbent on Berrios to keep Houston’s hitters at bay. This is the one that the Astros win. Game 3 will be all hands on deck. We will see just about every other starter for both teams. Ultimately it will be a big game for Byron Buxton and old man Nelson Cruz will break out the Boomstick for the walk-off.
Prediction: Minnesota Twins 2, Houston Astros 1
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