The MLB Playoffs start on Tuesday, with the first game of the AL Wild Card round between two American League contenders. The Houston Astros (29-31) head to Target Field to face the Minnesota Twins(36-24). First pitch will be shortly after 2:00 PM Eastern.
The Astros are one of the worst teams on the road, and with only three games in the wild card series, Houston will need to step up their efficiency in this first away game. After three-straight losses to close the regular season, it will be interesting to see how the Astros adjust to compete against the AL Central winners.
The Minnesota Twins are out to prove that they aren’t just a good regular season team. Time and time again, the Twins have made the playoffs only to lose, carrying an active 16-game playoff losing streak into the series. This time around, though, Minnesota appears equipped with the right team to make a deep run. If the Twins want to make a statement, a win at home to start this series and exorcising their playoff demons would be a step in the right direction.
Astros Hope to Turn the Page
The first game of this series is critical for the Houston Astros. After the controversy surrounding their 2017 World Series cheating scandal, the Astros are back in the playoffs and can prove they belong there.
They face an uphill battle against the Minnesota Twins. Houston and Minnesota have not played each other in this abbreviated season. Although the Astros come in as underdogs, many analysts predict Houston will take Game 1, mainly because of the Twins inconsistencies at the plate.
Houston posted a dismal 9-21 record on the road this season, which should give bettors pause before taking them over the Twins. Zack Greinke will be the starting pitcher for the Astros on Tuesday. Greinke has a 3-3 record in six starts; however, Greinke has an ERA of 4.03 in his last three starts, all of which were losses.
Twins NEED a Win
The Minnesota Twins have had little success in the playoffs and were swept by the New York Yankees last season. This postseason, they will face the Houston Astros. Despite Houston’s championship pedigree, the Astros are a welcome change of pace after ten straight playoff losses to the Bronx Bombers. The Yankees have also eliminated Minnesota in six of their last seven playoff appearances.
The Twins will need to bring their bats and be consistent at the plate. There will be no travel in the Wild Card round, so the Twins will need to get a fast start at home and hold off the Astros’ power hitting. Minnesota will also need to play through some concerning injuries.
Centerfielder Byron Buxton is on Day-To-Day status after suffering a concussion and could leave Minnesota without their speedster. Buxton has also hit a couple of clutch home runs to seal games for the Twins. Josh Donaldson left Friday’s game with an apparent calf injury and did not play Saturday or Sunday. If Buxton and Donaldson are out of the lineup, the rest of the dugout will have to step it up.
Kenta Maeda (6-1, 2.70 ERA, 80 strikeouts) is the expected Game 1 starter for Minnesota.
Who’s The Team To Take?
Minnesota’s postseason shortcomings have many analysts leaning away from them and toward the Astros. However, Houston’s horrible record on the road doesn’t bode well when the Twins have a 23-7 record at home and are 29-18 as a favorite. Even with their difficulties in previous postseasons, I think we can all agree that this is a much different Twins team than we’ve seen in past years.
While the Astros could not improve their playoff positioning, it still would have been nice to end on a high note and carry momentum into the Wild Card round. Instead, three losses to the lowly Texas Rangers to close the year have the alarm bells starting to ring.
Take the Twins to win the first game of the series at home.
FREE PICK: Minnesota Twins -120.