History was made Tuesday afternoon in Minneapolis. As the Houston Astros defeated the Minnesota Twins, Minnesota’s playoff losing streak extended to 17 games. The dubious streak is not only the longest in MLB history, but also it’s a longer streak than in NBA, NFL, or NHL history.
The Astros made history of their own, being the first team in MLB history to win a playoff game after reaching the playoffs with a losing record.
The Twins will get a chance to fend off the futility Wednesday afternoon for Game 2 of the American League quarterfinal round. Despite the Game 1 loss, the Twins are still betting favorites at (-145) with an over/under of 7.5.
Game 1 Recap
Under clear, blue skies and in front of a small spattering of socially-distanced fans, Kenta Maeda took the mound for Minnesota for the first pitch of the 2020 American League playoffs. Michael Brantley doubled for the only base hit in the top half of the inning and was stranded at second after Alex Bregman grounded out to short.
In the bottom of the inning, the Twins loaded the bases with one out after Byron Buxton singled and stole second, then Max Kepler and Nelson Cruz walked. Unfortunately for the home nine, Astros pitcher Zach Greinke worked out of a jam, as Eddie Rosario lined out to first, and Miguel Sano grounded out to third before a run could come across.
The game remained scoreless until the third inning when Kepler walked for the second time, and then Nelson Cruz doubled him in to break the deadlock. Greinke left the game after the fourth inning giving up one run on two hits with three walks and a strikeout.
Houston had no answer for Maeda, who left the game after five innings, with two hits, three walks, and five strikeouts. However, the Twins’ biggest weakness recently has been their bullpen, and the Astros broke through against Tyler Duffey in the seventh inning. With two outs, J.J. Reddick, Martin Maldonado, and George Springer rattled off three straight singles to put Houston on the board for a 1-1 tie.
The Astros pounced on Minnesota’s shaky bullpen again in the ninth inning and again with two outs. With runners on first and second, Springer hit a routine ground ball to short. However, Jorge Polanco’s throw pulled Luis Arraez off the bag, and the inning continued. Sergio Romo walked Jose Altuve to give Houston the lead, then Michael Brantley singled to center, scoring Carlos Correa and Springer.
Minnesota threatened in the bottom of the ninth with runners on first and second, but Willians Astudillo hit into a double play to end the game. Framber Valdez got the 4-1 win for Houston, with two hits, two walks, and five strikeouts in five innings.
Astros Game 2 Starter Is…. Who?
As of 10:51 PM Eastern Time Tuesday, the Astros have not named a starter for Game 2. Houston’s manager, Dusty Baker, said Lance McCullers would not be available even out of the bullpen for Wednesday’s game, though there is a chance he may start Game 3 on Thursday, if needed.
José Urquidy (1-1, 2.73 ERA, 54 K’s) is the likeliest option, and if he gets the nod, it will be his second career postseason start. Urquidy started Game 4 of the 2019 World Series, where he did not allow a run in five and two-thirds innings.
Banking on Berrios
Unlike the Astros, the Twins named José Berríos the Game 2 Starter. Berrios (5-4, 4.00 ERA, 60 K’s) lost his last start of the regular season but earned a win or no-decision in his previous six starts. He has started two playoff games for Minnesota but did not pitch more than four innings in either postseason appearance.
Michael Pineda was considered as a starter after serving a suspension for the use of a banned diuretic, but with only 26 innings pitched this season, there are concerns about his conditioning. Randy Dobnak and Jake Odorizzi are also expected to pitch out of the bullpen.
The Pick Is In
The Twins have averaged two runs per game in their last four playoff games. The Astros did not win back-to-back road games against the same opponent in 2020. Something’s gotta give, and all streaks, good and bad, have to come to an end at some point.
Take the Twins (-145) and the under (7.5).