Minnesota Twins fans must have been left speechless as this October has unfolded: They finally won a postseason game for the first time since 2004! They also defeated the Toronto Blue Jays to capture a postseason series for only the second time since 2002! Now comes an even taller challenge: can they take down Houston Astros – reigning American League champs four of the last six seasons?
The 2023 Astros earned 90 victories, their lowest win total since 2016, yet still featured most of their core contributors from last year’s World Series-winning team: Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker and others; Justin Verlander also returned after spending some time in Queens. Overcoming some sluggish sequences, they overcame to secure American League West on the final day and earn some respite time off as champions.
One hallmark of Houston’s golden era has been their patient, contact-first offensive approach – one they must adhere to for this series. Houston struck out only 19.8 per cent of their innings this season – the lowest among any playoff-qualifying team. While their chase rate exceeds the major-league average, their fifth-lowest whiff rate during regular season play speaks volumes about Houston.
Still, this series should come down to keeping Minnesota’s explosive offense within the park. The Twins led the American League with an incredible 233 homers this season, while Houston allowed 1.43 homers per nine innings during the second half compared to 0.83 HR/9 overall last season. Houston may hold the advantage in playoff experience over any team they face; winning this one requires keeping the twins’ power bats from hitting home runs.
Minnesota Twins pitching staff has been the driving force in their success this season, allowing just one run over 18 innings during a two-game sweep against Toronto Blue Jays. Pablo Lopez and Sonny Gray are as effective a one-two rotation punch as any in the playoffs and should start three times over a five-game series. Minnesota’s bullpen wasn’t always strong this season. Still, late-inning changes helped retool their late-inning mix, including getting Brock Stewart and Chris Paddack back from injury, shifting starter Louie Varland and Kenta Maeda into their bullpen, and keeping Griffin Jax, Caleb Thielbar, and Jhoan Duran together as a high-leverage trio. Now the Twins can mix and match relief options more freely — providing high-octane raw stuff throughout their roster – than they ever could before mid-September.
The Twins have the talent and potential to take down any opponent in baseball.
The Twins are going to pull the small upset in this series. I think their bats will be awake, and the pitching will be just good enough to win this series in four games. Take the twins!
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