HOUSTON – Are you ready for playoff baseball?
The MLB 60-game schedule is in the books and 16 teams have punched their ticket to the party, including the Astros who are in the postseason for a fourth consecutive season. After losing a heartbreaker in Game 7 to the Nationals in last year’s World Series, the Astros did just enough to earn the trip back in 2020.
Injuries have been the story in this shortened season but new manager Dusty Baker has worked some magic with a mix of his experienced veterans and a slew of rookies that were pushed through to the big leagues to do their part. Some were ready and others still need time but along the way, many have had their moments over the past two months.
After losing Sunday to the Rangers to end the regular season the Astros waited to find out their next destination: Minneapolis.
The wild card round will land in the Twins house with their best-of-three series set to begin on Tuesday at Target Field.
- Game 1: 1 p.m. Tuesday
- Game 2: 2 p.m. Wednesday
- Game 3: TBD Thursday
The Twins will be the favorites after earning the 3rd overall seed. They are dominant at Target Field and feature a lineup that hit over 90 home runs during this 2020 season. Minnesota has a deep starting pitching staff and a young bullpen to backup their rotation.
The Astros are counting on the playoff experience to pay off with the likes of George Springer, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa and others including Yuli Gurriel, Josh Reddick and Michael Brantley to deliver. This group is proven but in 2020 they haven’t exactly replicated their playoff past. Numbers are down and perhaps with a clean slate and a new postseason the confidence will return.
The Astros' offense needs to score runs in this series if they want a chance to advance. Hitting with runners in scoring position has been a challenge and if they can’t do that against this Twins staff then this series won’t last long. Their pitching needs to come through with the likes of Grienke, McCullers, Urquidy and Valdez. If the starters can’t give Baker quality outings and the bullpen is a factor, then again, this season will be over by Thursday and vacation will begin.
Keys to an Astros series win
Offensive explosion: Get the bats going and set the tone from the first inning. Springer, Altuve, and Bregman need to get hot. When they have confidence, it feeds the entire lineup.
Starting pitching: Greinke needs to regain the confidence he had early in the season. His last seven starts have been substandard. McCullers has been looking sharp and confidence is high for both Valdez and Urquidy. Quality starts are critical.
Let’s play ball!