MINNEAPOLIS – Tarnished by scandal at the start of the year and below average during this pandemic-abbreviated season, the Houston Astros showed up for the playoffs with their usual confidence and poise.
Just like that, they've got the edge on the Minnesota Twins in an elimination game.
Jose Altuve drew a walk to force in the go-ahead run in the ninth inning Tuesday after a two-out error by shortstop Jorge Polanco, and the Astros beat the Twins 4-1 to open their AL playoff series and stretch Minnesota's all-time postseason record to 17 straight losses.
“These guys know how to battle. They know what it’s like," said manager Dusty Baker, after the Astros became the first team in major league history to win a game after reaching the postseason with a losing record. “They know how to win, and they take pride in what they do.”
Game 2 in the best-of-three wild-card matchup is Wednesday at Target Field.
Michael Brantley tacked on a two-run single against Caleb Thielbar in the ninth after Sergio Romo issued the full-count walk to the 5-foot-6 Altuve, who batted 127 points lower (.219) this year than his 2017 AL MVP season.
“He laid off a close pitch. It didn’t go my way,” said Romo, who has three World Series rings with San Francisco and pitched in his 30th career postseason game. “Tough pill to swallow.”
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli called for Romo, the fifth of six pitchers, to start the ninth. The Astros started with two singles, but Romo was about to escape with the tie preserved until Polanco’s throw to second base after a straight-at-him grounder was low to blow the forceout.