The Houston Astros got their title defense off to a strong start with a win over the Minnesota Twins, who are looking to build on their first postseason series win in over two decades by making it to the ALCS. The difference between a series at 1-1 and at 2-0 is tremendous, so game two is a massive one; let’s take a look at the odds for this matchup, where my prediction is an Astros win at a -135 moneyline.
Twins Vs. Astros Prediction
After breaking their epic streak of postseason futility with a pair of wins over the Toronto Blue Jays, the Minnesota Twins have come crashing back to reality by way of facing the best team in the majors over the past half decade. The Twins put up a solid fight as they pulled themselves back to just a run behind the Astros after going down 5-0, but ultimately, a rough start to the day from both Bailey Ober and Kenta Maeda was too much to overcome. With Wild Card Round hero Pablo López on the bump, and fellow Wild Card winner Sonny Gray likely to throw game three, Minnesota will need and expects better pitching performances going forward.
López’s win over the Jays put him in the company of a fellow Venezuelan starter, Twins legend Johan Santana, who had started and earned the win in the Twins’ previous postseason victory. The win was one of the most meaningful in franchise history, and was clearly cathartic for both the players and fanbase, but the postseason doesn’t pause for celebrations, and if López doesn’t play the hero once more, the Twins’ postseason is likely over.
He was sharp in the win over Toronto, as he went nearly six innings and allowed just one run, but he’ll be going up against a Houston lineup that was once again one of the best in the majors as they ranked fifth in the league in OPS. López hasn’t faced the Astros yet this season, so it’ll be a fresh look for both sides. His Houston counterpart will be Framber Valdez, who has a longer postseason track record, to say the least. Over the past three seasons in Houston, he’s made 12 postseason starts, and a five inning shutout relief performance against none other than Minnesota. Overall, his postseason ERA has been a very respectable 3.41, and he’ll look to give Houston a commanding 2-0 lead in this series.
Unfortunately, sometimes the predictable is what happens, and that’s what we saw on Saturday as the Astros took the win in game one, the only higher-seeded home team that was able to do so across the four games of Division Series action. They’ll do it again and send the series back to Minnesota with the Twins facing a 2-0 deficit and elimination, as their postseason experience will shine through again, and their supercharged lineup will be able to make a solid dent against López. Houston’s superior bullpen will also be a major factor in a postseason setting, especially after Minnesota had to dip into theirs early after only getting three innings from Ober in game one.
Twins Vs. Astros Prediction: Astros ML (-135)
Twins Vs. Astros Odds
The Astros are -135 favorites on the moneyline, and have +150 odds to cover a spread of -1.5. On the other side of each of those lines, the Twins are +110 and -185, respectively, so clearly Vegas sees Houston winning a close one. The total is set at 8, with -105 odds for the over and -115 for the under.
Twins Vs. Astros Key Matchups
With the most successful postseason squad of the current era going up against a much less experienced unit, it’ll be key for the starting pitchers to set the tone, so let’s take a look at those matchups.
Framber Valdez vs. Twins Righties
With Valdez’s track record, it’s very hard to find any definitive weak spots. His homer rate was a bit up from last year, when he had the best figure in the American League, but it’s still a bit better than league average, which is supported by his essentially median barrel rate, so it’s hard to consider that to be a weakness. This year, he has a reverse-split, but across his career, he’s been better against fellow lefties, as many southpaws are. Let’s take a look at some of the Twins’ best right-handed bats, who might have a chance to get to Valdez.
Switch hitter Jorge Polanco has hit a bit better against lefties with an .824 OPS against southpaws, so he could be an early-lineup threat against Valdez. Rookie phenom Royce Lewis has been mashing the ball this postseason, and is the biggest right handed power threat in the lineup. And of course, former Astro Carlos Correa will be in the lineup, although he hasn’t been anywhere near his best this season. None of these hitters give Minnesota enough of an advantage against Valdez, a key reason I have the Astros winning in my Twins vs. Astros prediction.
Pablo López vs. Astros Lefties
Similarly to Valdez, López’s advanced metrics are absolutely fantastic, and it’s almost impossible to find any hole in his resume. The one thing is that he does have a significant platoon split; lefties earn a .754 OPS against him, compared to .597 for righties. The Houston lineup is fairly balanced, so let’s take a look at some key left handed bats.
Yordan Álvarez is the best hitter in the Houston lineup, and while he missed time, he did rack up 31 homers and a .990 OPS. Kyle Tucker was over a 5-WAR player this year, and hit nearly 30 homers as well en route to slugging over .500. Lastly, Michael Brantley has missed almost the entire season, but is a seasoned contact bat who will provide a major boost to the lineup.
Twins Vs. Astros Starting Lineups
Twins Starting Lineup
2B E. Julien L
3B J. Polanco S
DH R. Lewis R
RF M. Kepler L
1B A. Kiriloff L
SS C. Correa R
LF M. Wallner L
C R. Jeffers R
CF M. Taylor R
Astros Starting Lineup
2B J. Altuve R
3B A. Bregman R
DH Y. Alvarez L
RF K. Tucker L
1B J. Abreu R
LF M. Brantley L
CF C. McCormick R
SS J. Pena R
C Martin Maldonado R