The best-of-five format will be used to determine who’s going to represent the second American League bracket in the American League Championship Series.
Gametimes and Starting Pitchers
This part of the preview is subject to a lot of speculation. The Gametimes are right, but the starting pitchers are something we can only guess at in most of these matchups. I made educated guesses for both teams for games four and five, and also for the Astros in game three. I figure El Reptil is a better-than-even bet to start opposite Sonny Gray on Tuesday.
Saturday at 3:45 PM CT — Bailey Ober (8-6, 3.43) vs. Justin Verlander (13-8, 3.22)
Sunday at 7:03 PM CT — Pablo López (11-8, 3.66) vs. Framber Valdez (12-11, 3.45)
Tuesday at 3:07 PM CT — Sonny Gray (8-8, 2.79) vs. Cristian Javier (10-5, 4.56)
Wednesday at 1:07 CT (if necessary) — Joe Ryan (11-10, 4.51) vs. J.P. France (11-6, 3.83)
Friday at 3:07 PM CT (if necessary) — Bailey Ober (8-6, 3.43) vs. Justin Verlander (13-8. 3.22)
Houston and Minnesota met six times this season, with the Twins winning two-of-three both at home and away. Houston’s most recent victory against Minnesota, on May 30, would see Brandon Bielak (2-2, 3.19) strike out six and come within one out of a Quality Start in a 5-1 decision. Alex Bregman (7) led the offense with a pair of hits, including a solo home run in the second, and Chas McCormick (4) added a two-run shot later in the same inning.
The Astros completed their season with a three-game sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who themselves are in the thick of their own problems with the Los Angeles Dodgers. In the season finale, on Sunday, the Astros gave Cristian Javier (10-5, 4.56) an 8-1 victory. El Reptil struck out four, walked two, and kept the Snakes scoreless on three hits. Alex Bregman (25) and José Abreu (18) went deep, and Kyle Tucker added a double and a triple.
The Twins won the American League Central, but as the division winner with the third best winning percentage in the regular season were not blessed with a first-round bye. In the “wildcard” round, Minnesota made quick work of the Toronto Blue Jays, by scores of 3-1 and 2-0, respectively. Although the Twins only collectively slashed .207/.343/.310 in the series, their pitching struck out 19 while allowing one run.
In the regular season, Houston owns a 44-39 edge in head-to-head play for a .530 winning percentage. The two have met once in the postseason, in the first round of the extended 2020 playoffs. Houston swept that one, 2-0.
Around the rest of the majors
I’m not going to go too far into details regarding the other three Divisional Series, as there are many places you can get it better (if you’re into that sort of thing....non-Astros baseball). I’ll simply say that Houston’s game is the second of four on Saturday, with the other three playing out thusly:
12:03 PM CT — Texas Rangers vs. Baltimore Orioles, Camden Yards
5:07 PM CT — Philadelphia Phillies vs. Atlanta Braves, Truist Park
8:20 PM CT — Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, Dodger Stadium
Carlos Correa had seven pretty good years with Houston, slashing .277/.356/.481 with 133 jacks and 489 RBI in 752 games. It’s hard to believe, but he still isn’t 30.
Ryan Pressly spent his first six seasons with the Twins, going 17-16 before spending the second six seasons with the Astros, going 16-17. Weird, right? For Minnesota, he saved one game and held opponents to a 1.303 WHIP with a 3.71 FIP and 8.0 K/9. Since joining Houston, those figures are 0.963, 2.54, and 11.5 respectively.
Backstop Christian Vázquez spent the first seven-and-a-half seasons of his major league career with the Boston Red Sox before joining the Astros for the 2022 stretch run. For Houston, he hit .250 in 35 games while providing decent defense at catcher. In the postseason, he was four-for-17 with three RBI.
What to expect
I’m not what you would call a psychic, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. In the poll published early in the Friday morning Boil, I asked you who would win and in how many games. Overwhelmingly you picked Houston, with 93 percent. Most of you, 67 percent, predicted four games. I think it’s going to take five, with the clubs splitting one-apiece in Houston and in Minnesota before the Astros shut the door in game five. I just hope that they don’t go into this mix underestimating the Twins. You don’t get to the second round of the postseason by accident.
Game One tonight. Who wins and by how much?
This poll is closed
Houston by 5+
Houston by three or four runs
Houston by one or two runs
Minnesota by one or two
Minnesota by three or four
Minnesota by 5+