Houston Astros Close Out Minnesota Twins, Setting Up ALCS Showdown vs. Texas Rangers
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Battle of Texas is on. One day after the Texas Rangers locked down a spot in the American League Championship Series, the Houston Astros clinched their seventh consecutive ALCS bid with a 3-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins to win their division series 3-1.
The Astros relied on the formula that has brought them so much postseason success in recent years, including during their World Series championship last year: home runs and pitching. Jose Abreu, their prized free agent signing over the winter, hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning to put the Astros ahead 3-1, and starter Jose Urquidy, followed by relievers Hector Neris, Bryan Abreu, and Ryan Pressly, shut down a dangerous Twins lineup to secure a record-extending ALCS appearance.
Minnesota's best, at a loud Target Field, wasn't enough to oust Houston, which last lost a division series in 2015. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli emptied his bullpen, yanking starter Joe Ryan -- who allowed a second-inning home run to Michael Brantley that countered Twins rookie Royce Lewis' first-inning shot -- after two innings.
A sixth-inning home run by Twins rookie Edouard Julien chased Urquidy, who last pitched a dozen days ago but went 5⅔ strong, at one point striking out five consecutive Twins.
The Astros will face a Rangers team that is surging after sweeping the Tampa Bay Rays in the wild-card series and the top-seeded Baltimore Orioles in the division series. The Astros and Rangers have never played one another in the postseason.
Justin Verlander, who returned to the Astros in August via trade from the New York Mets is scheduled to make his 36th career postseason start in Game 1.
Minnesota's Highest-Paid Pro Athletes in 2023
Gallery Credit: Curt St. John
LOOK: 30 Best Major League Baseball Home Run Celebrations Using Props
Gallery Credit: Rob Carroll