2023 American League Division Series 2

From BR Bullpen

2023 American League Division Series
Houston Astros logo
2023 American League Division Series logo
Minnesota Twins logo
Houston Astros
90 - 72 in the AL
3 - 1
Series Summary
Minnesota Twins
87 - 75 in the AL


The Teams[edit]




Series results[edit]

Game Score Date Starters Time (ET)
1 Minnesota Twins 4 Houston Astros 6 October 7 Bailey Ober (0-1) Justin Verlander (1-0) 4:45 pm
2 Minnesota Twins 6 Houston Astros 2 October 8 Pablo López (1-0) Framber Valdez (0-1) 8:03 pm
3 Houston Astros 9 Minnesota Twins 1 October 10 Cristian Javier (1-0) Sonny Gray (0-1) 4:03 pm
4 Houston Astros 3 Minnesota Twins 2 October 11 Jose Urquidy (1-0) Joe Ryan (0-0) 7:08 pm


Game 1 @ Minute Maid Park[edit]

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Twins 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 0 0 4 9 0
Astros 1 0 2 0 2 0 1 0 x 6 9 0
WP: Justin Verlander (1-0); LP: Bailey Ober (0-1); SV: Ryan Pressly (1)
Home Runs: HOU - José Altuve (1), Yordan Alvarez 2 (2); MIN - Jorge Polanco (1), Royce Lewis (1)
  • Attendance: 43,024

Houston jumped to a quick start against the Twins, with José Altuve homering on the first pitch by Bailey Ober in the bottom of the 1st, and had a comfortable 5-0 lead by the time Justin Verlander had completed six excellent innings of work. However, the Twins made things interesting with a couple of long balls against Hector Neris in the 7th, accounting for four runs, and the rest of the game was tense before Houston escaped with a 6-4 win. This was a game dominated by the home run ball, as there were five hit on the day, including two by Yordan Alvarez, accounting for eight of the ten runs.

While the veteran Verlander ended up pitching six scoreless innings, it wasn't all smooth sailing, as he walked the first batter of the game, Edouard Julien, then allowed a single to Jorge Polanco. However, he got Royce Lewis to ground into a double play, and after issuing another walk, to Max Kepler, got Alex Kirilloff to ground out to end the inning. That's when Altuve put the Astros ahead on Ober's first pitch by homering to left field. The Twins put a couple more men on base in the 2nd, on singles by Carlos Correa and Ryan Jeffers, but Verlander induced another double play grounder, this one by Michael A. Taylor. In the 3rd, Julien led off with a double, but with one out was caught between second and third on a grounder by Lewis, and that threat ended as well. The Twins would later regret not getting any runs out of these early opportunities, as Verlander became better as the game advanced, and did not give them another significant opportunity in his final three innings of work.

Meanwhile, Ober hit Alex Bregman with a pitch with one out in the bottom of the 3rd and Alvarez followed with a homer, making it 3-0 for Houston. Kenta Maeda replaced Ober in the 4th and had a tough first inning, allowing a single and a walk and throwing a wild pitch, but did not give up a run. In the 5th, however, Bregman led off with a single and Alvarez followed with a walk. After one out, José Abreu singled to drive in a run, then with two outs, Chas McCormick singled as well. It looked like LF Matt Wallner had a chance to cut down Alvarez at the plate, but Abreu stopped between second and third base, drawing the cut-off man's attention, and while he was tagged for the third out, he had stopped long enough to allow Alvarez to cross the plate with the fifth run. Thus, the game looked to be completely in Houston's control when Neris replaced Verlander to start the 7th, but he got himself in quick trouble by hitting Wallner with a pitch and giving up a single to Jeffers. He almost escaped when he struck out pinch-hitter Willi Castro and Julien, but Polanco drove a pitch into the upper deck in right field for a three-run homer and two pitches later, Lewis followed with a homer to left to make 5-4. And the Twins weren't done: Kepler hit a double off Bryan Abreu before the hard-throwing reliever struck out Kirilloff to end the inning.

In the 7th, Chris Paddack, who had succeeded Maeda, struck out Bregman, then Rocco Baldelli called on lefty Caleb Thielbar to face Alvarez. However, Alvarez is not one to be fazed by facing a fellow lefty, and he drove a pitch against the right field foul pole for a home run, giving Houston an important insurance run. In the 8th, Correa led off with a double off Bryan Abreu, and advanced to third on a wild pitch with one out, but his teammates were unable to cash him in. Closer Ryan Pressly came on for the 9th but shut things down with comebacker to the mound and two strikeouts.

Game 2 @ Minute Maid Park[edit]

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Twins 1 2 0 0 2 0 1 0 0 6 10 0
Astros 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 2 7 0
WP: Pablo López (1-0); LP: Framber Valdez (0-1)
Home Runs: MIN - Kyle Farmer (1); HOU - Yordan Alvarez (3)
  • Attendance: 43,017

The Twins evened the series with a 6-2 win in Game 2, behind a great performance by starting pitcher Pablo López, who gave them seven scoreless innings, allowing just 6 hits, and leaving with a 6-0 lead. It was not the case for his opponent, Framber Valdez, who allowed runs in the first two innings, and had given up two more by the time he left the game in the 5th inning. It was the first time this postseason that a series was tied, as all four Wild Card Series had been two-game sweeps, and in the other ALDS, the Texas Rangers had built a two-game lead on the Baltimore Orioles earlier in the day.

With a lefthander on the mound for Houston, Rocco Baldelli tinkered with his starting lineup as he had done all season, loading it with right-handed batters, and it paid immediate dividends: Jorge Polanco drew a one-out walk, then scored when Carlos Correa, batting clean-up against his former team, hit a double to center field for a quick 1-0 lead. In the 2nd, Willi Castro hit a lead-off single and the next batter, Kyle Farmer, followed with a homer to make it 3-0. Both Castro and Farmer were part of the changes made by the Twins to gain the platoon advantage. In the 5th, Minnesota added to its lead when Michael A. Taylor and Donovan Solano both singled, and Polanco advanced them 90 feet with what was credited as a sacrifice hit although he clearly was looking to surprise the Astros by bunting for a base hit. Valdez then walked Royce Lewis to load the bases and Correa followed with a single, driving in two runs. Phil Maton came in to pitch with the situation still very tense, as there were two runners on with just one out, but Lewis was caught between third and home on a ball hit back to Maton by Ryan Jeffers, and he was tagged out by 3B Alex Bregman while unsuccessfully trying to reenact the Zimmerman Chase. Maton then walked Castro to load the bases again, but struck out Farmer to end the inning. At 5-0, the situation was dire for Houston, but it could have been desperate had any of the three batters Maton faced been able to get a base hit.

López made sure there was no coming back from that deep hole for the Astros, however. In what was the best chance against him, Jeremy Pena led off the bottom of the 5th with a double to left, but he could not advance any further as López masterfully retired the next three batters. In the 7th, Minnesota added a sixth run when Lewis singled with one out and Correa followed with a double, both against Ryne Stanek. Rafael Montero came in to pitch and hit the first man he faced, Jeffers, to load the bases. Montero struck out Castro, but pinch-hitter Edouard Julien lined a single to right. Lewis scored and Correa followed him, but in trying to avoid C Martin Maldonado's tag, he slid well wide of home plate, and Maldonado then tagged him before he could turn back and touch it. López then ended his outstanding evening by adding a seventh runless inning. Houston finally scored some runs in the 8th against reliever Brock Stewart when Bregman drew a one-out walk and their most dangerous hitter, Yordan Alvarez followed with a long ball to left-center, his third homer of the series already. It made the game a little closer, but the Astros were still trailing by four runs, so closer Jhoan Duran's arrival in the 9th was not a save situation. Duran retired the three batters he faced in order in any case to send the series to Minnesota with the two teams tied.

Game 3 @ Target Field[edit]

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Astros 4 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 3 9 14 0
Twins 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 3 1
WP: Cristian Javier (1-0); LP: Sonny Gray (0-1)
Home Runs: HOU - José Abreu 2 (2), Alex Bregman (1), Yordan Alvarez (4)
  • Attendance: 41,017

On paper, Game 3 looked like it would be a pitcher's duel with Sonny Gray facing Cristian Javier, with the former having put up one of the best ERAs in the majors during the season, while Javier's last postseason start, in Game 4 of the 2022 World Series, had provided the first six innings of a combined no-hitter. Only one of the two would live up to his billing, however, and that was Javier, who allowed only one hit in five scoreless innings, even if he walked five batters and hit another one with a pitch. In contrast, Gray could not get his breaking balls in the right spots, and the Astros took advantage, scoring four runs in the 1st inning. Even though he gave up just one more run over the next three innings, that early hole was too much for the Twins, who could never get the clutch hit that could have gotten them back into the game. In the end, Houston ran away with the game, winning, 9-1.

The 1st inning was the key one, as José Altuve led off the game with a single to center and after Gray struck out Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez ripped a ball down the first base line, advancing Altuve to third. It was ruled an error on 1B Alex Kirilloff but could also have gone down as a double. Kyle Tucker followed with another single, driving in a first run, then José Abreu dealt the killer blow, a long homer to left field on a sweeper that stayed in the middle of the strike zone, giving the Astros a 4-0 lead. The Twins had a chance to reply immediately as Jorge Polanco drew a one-out walk and Max Kepler followed with a double, but Royce Lewis and Carlos Correa both went down on strikes, stranding the two runners in scoring position. Even after a disastrous 1st inning, Gray soldiered on and kept the Astros from adding any runs over the next three innings, although they got a runner on base each time, including on a double by Alvarez in the 3rd. The Twins had another great opportunity in the bottom of the 3rd, when they put two men on base via a hit batsman and a walk, but couldn't do any damage. In the 5th, Bregman hit a lead-off homer to make it 5-0, after which Alvarez doubled again and Tucker walked, ending Gray's day. Emilio Pagan then did a great job escaping the jam, getting Abreu on an infield fly, striking out Yainer Diaz and getting Mauricio Dubon to fly out.

The Twins' best chance came in the bottom of the 5th when they loaded the bases on three walks with only one out, but their next two batters struck out, including Lewis who had already built a reputation in his young career for his uncanny ability to hit grand slams. Such a blast would certainly have changed the shape of the game, but, alas, it wasn't to be. Relievers handled the rest of the game, with Houston adding a sixth run in the 6th and the Twins scoring their lone one in the bottom of that inning on a single by Willi Castro that drove in Correa from second. Then in the 9th, with Game 1 starter Bailey Ober on the mound, Alvarez hit a solo homer to right, his fourth of the series and third extra-base hit of the game, and Abreu hit his second long ball of the game after a walk to Tucker to make the final score 9-1.

Game 4 @ Target Field[edit]

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Astros 0 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 3 6 0
Twins 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 2 3 0
WP: Jose Urquidy (1-0); LP: Caleb Thielbar (0-1); SV: Ryan Pressly (2)
Home Runs: MIN - Royce Lewis (2), Edouard Julien (1); HOU - José Abreu (3)
  • Attendance: 40,977

Game 4 was a tightly played affair with very few hits and loads of strikeouts: 24 in all with both teams recording at least 10. Each team hit two homers to account for all of its runs and the only difference was that one of Houston's long balls came with a runner on base, while both of the Twins' were solo shots. The final score of 3-2 sent Houston to the American League Championship Series for the seventh straight year. On the mound, both teams were digging into the back of their rotation, with Jose Urquidy going for the Astros and Joe Ryan for the Twins; both had been good in years past but had not done a lot this year, and they weren't expected to go deep. Still, Urquidy defied expectations by completing five innings, receiving credit for the win.

It was the Twins who hit the first homer, and it came off the bat of none other than Royce Lewis, their emerging superstar for whom it was already the fourth long ball of the postseason. It could have been a lot different but for the play that happened just before: Edouard Julien had led off the inning with a double, but Jorge Polanco had then lined a pitch to SS Jeremy Pena, who had doubled Julien off the bag. As a result, Lewis' homer only gave the Twins a 1-0 lead, and it was a short-lived one at that, as in the 2nd it was Michael Brantley who went deep against Ryan, tying the score. Urquidy then struck out the side in the bottom of the 2nd, extinguishing any momentum that the Twins may have been building. Brock Stewart replaced Ryan in the 3rd, but it was in the 4th that the key blow occurred: against Caleb Thielbar, Yordan Alvarez led off the inning with a single on a pitch out of the strike zone, and José Abreu followed with his third homer in two games, this one to the opposite field. It was now 3-1, and Houston would basically do nothing more on offense after that blow. Not that the Twins did much more.

Julien, who had ended a string of five straight strikeouts by Urquidy by drawing a walk in the 3rd, came up again with one out in the 6th and homered to the opposite field. That cut Houston's lead to 3-2, but Minnesota's bats would also be completely stifled after that. It must be said that both managers went to their top relievers to handle the remaining innings, including Rocco Baldelli asking his closer Jhoan Duran to pitch two innings, and they were dominant. Bryan Abreu and Ryan Pressly combined to strike out five of the six batters they faced in the 8th and 9th, the only exception being Byron Buxton, activated before the game in place of Alex Kirilloff, who popped up softly to the outfield in his first appearance since the start of August. Thus, so there weren't even any runners on base to motivate strategic decisions, or any missed opportunities to cash in runners to be rued.

Further Reading[edit]

  • Anthony Castrovince: "Twins-Astros position-by-position breakdown", mlb.com, October 5, 2023. [1]
  • Brian McTaggart: "Astros have healthy respect for Twins: 'They look legit'", mlb.com, October 5, 2023. [2]
  • Brian McTaggart: "Astros seal 7th straight ALCS trip to set up big-time Texas duel", mlb.com, October 12, 2023. [3]

Related Sites[edit]

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NL Wild Card Series Diamondbacks (WC3) over Brewers (NLC) (2-0)

NL Wild Card Series Phillies (WC1) over Marlins (WC2) (2-0)

NL Division Series Phillies (WC) over Braves (NLE) (3-1)

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NL Championship Series Diamondbacks (WC) over Phillies (WC) (4-3)

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AL Wild Card Series Twins (ALC) over Blue Jays (WC3) (2-0)

AL Wild Card Series Rangers (WC2) over Rays (WC1) (2-0)

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