Well, the 2020 MLB Playoffs are upon us. As baseball finally moves into it’s Bubble phase, 16 teams are squaring off to determine this year’s World Series champion. While it’s hard to think that there won’t be an asterisk next to the 2020 title, a champion will be crowned.
The MLB is a fickle beast. Star-driven and tank-friendly, teams in the dumpster one year can be the king of the mountain the next. With that, stakes are high for almost every team as they make their playoff run, with sought-after stars often heading for greener pastures if they feel their squad can’t get over the hump.
We’re looking at each MLB playoff series and diving into what’s at stake for each team, how they stack up, and the keys to victory for each squad.
So, let’s check-in ahead of the Wild Card series between the Minnesota Twins and the Houston Astros.
The Twins and Astros did not face each other this season, but Minnesota won four of their seven meetings last season.
The Twins made the playoffs in 2019and lost to the Yankees in the ALDS. They last won the World Series in 1991, beating the Atlanta Braves in seven games.
Editor’s Note: That is the World Series is the greatest of all time. Seriously. Every game is an instant classic, especially Game 7.
Houston lost to the Washington Nationals in the World Series last season. The Astros also defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2017 World Series under… circumstances.
Minnesota Twins Keys to Victory: Lineup Depth, Quality Starts
Minnesota has a very balanced team and will need to lean on that to advance to the next round here. The lineup is very deep with six players having an OPS+ over 100, and their defense is sound as they committed nearly the fewest errors in the league.
While their rotation is not flashy, it has four quality starters with postseason experience that should be able to keep them in games. Closer Taylor Rogers has been a little shaky (1.55 WHIP), but the bullpen as a whole is solid and if they continue to limit walks as they did during the season the Twins should be in good shape.
Houston Astros Keys to Victory: Trust Your Young Arms
[Insert tired “Bring back the trash cans!” joke here.]
In all seriousness, the Astros need to hit and score runs. After finishing 1st/6th/3rd in runs the last three seasons, Houston dropped to 14th in this shortened season. Lineup mainstays Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel all saw their OPS+ drop by more than 40 points from last year. Something needs to change for Houston to compete.
The pitching also took a huge blow when ace Justin Verlander announced he would be having Tommy John surgery. In terms of replacements, Houston will look to: Lance McCullers Jr. (12+ SO/9 ratio in September and didn’t allow an earned run over his last 17 innings), Jose Urquidy (four straight starts of 6+ innings while giving up 2 or fewer earned runs) and Christian Javier (struck out a batter per inning in September with an ERA near 3.00).
If the Astros want to keep the Twins lineup in check, they’ll need two of these three starters to continue their recent hot streaks.
Final Call: Minnesota Twins in 3 games
Minnesota is simply too balanced and Houston is simply too beat up and broken. The Astros might get lucky and steal a game, but the Twins should be able to easily get to the next round (and for Minnesota’s sake, hopefully, avoid the Yankees).
This season was never going to be easy for the Astros and the toll it took was evident by their sub .500 record. It won’t be ideal to have a first-round exit in the playoffs, but there will probably be some relief when the season is over. The outside distraction of their cheating scandal is not going anywhere though, and the team needs to figure out how to deal with that if they want to validate their past success.
- / 10 months ago
To me, Rachel Nichols is the personification of posting a black square on Instagram.