Without Carlos Correa, beating Minnesota at their prairie palace goes about the same as most of their postseason encounters this century. Team Twinkie has dropped 18 consecutive postseason games, a streak the Astros contributed to in 2020 with a two-game sweep at Target Field, highlighted by the exploits of one Mr. Correa. Houston swept the three-game series, pushing their winning streak to ten straight and re-taking first place in the division from the Anaheim Angels.
Verlander: Another near no-no
(c) Associated Press
With their $35 million-dollar star sidelined, the Central-leading Twins were easily-tamed. Not even the rain could help them.
First, Justin Verlander took a no-hit bid into the eighth inning on Tuesday where Gio Urshela broke it up with a clean single. No worries. The next batter rapped into a double play. Blake Taylor gave up two singles in the ninth but held on for a 5-0 shutout. Alex Bregman and Jeremy Pena each drove in a pair of runs.
The Spacemen built a 5-1 lead early on Wednesday before thunderstorms arrived. Under a rule change started in 2020 to help deal with COVID disruptions, the game was not restarted. Instead it was suspended at the point the game was called and continued Thursday before the scheduled series finale. After giving up a run in the fifth, Houston exploded for six runs on eight hits, including five extra-base hits, in the sixth to complete an 11-3 rout.
Every Astros in the lineup had at least one of the 15 hits. Pena and Jose Altuve both drove in three while Kyle Tucker added a home run and a double in the pivotal sixth.
In the Thursday finale, Yordan Alvarez smashed two homers and drove in three while Luis Garcia tossed five shutout innings in a 5-0 whitewash. Taylor, Seth Martinez and Rafael Montero continued to handcuff the Twins while 13 Minnesotans fell by strikeout.
The only downside to the series was that shortstop Pena tweaked his right knee during the finale while sliding into second base. He was replaced by Aledmys Diaz who completed the game. Pena said afterwards that the injury was minor and claimed he was "day-to-day". Of course, we've heard other Astros say that the past few years and wind up on the Injured List. It deserves watching.
The series sweep also moved 73-year-old manager Dusty Baker into a tie for 10th place on the all-time managerial wins list at 2008 with former Astros skipper Leo Durocher (1972-73). Baker is just 32 behind Dodger Hall-of-Famer Walter Alston at 2040 (Alston managed Dusty in 1976). It's unlikely Baker will get further up the ladder this year after passing Alston.
Baker gets a chance to pass Durocher during the upcoming three-game series against one of his former clubs, the Washington Nationals, this weekend. It will be interesting to see the fan reaction that comes.
The 21-11 Astros will be catching a beleaguered 11-22 Nationals squad. Their Spring Training bunkmates are at the bottom of the National League East. There is a little something called the 2019 World Series that still begs for some payback.
The Astros will send out lefty Framber Valdez (1-2, 3.34 ERA) in the Friday 6:05 p.m. Central opener against Josiah Gray (4-2, 3.45). Jake Odorizzi (3-2, 3.38) takes the ball in a Saturday evening duel with Erick Fedde (2-2, 3.90). Verlander (4-1, 1.55) is the scheduled starter in the Sunday afternoon finale challenging veteran lefty Patrick Corbin (0-5, 6.06). That game has a 12:35 p.m. Central start time.
Since Cristian Javier (2-0, 0.83) was not used in the doubleheader, it's possible he may replace Verlander, pushing JV back to Monday in Boston. They may also be planning to piggyback Javier and Odorizzi, like they did last Sunday against Detroit.
Finally, New York Yankee GM Brian Cashman continued his stream of nonsense on Thursday when he was asked about Houston owner Jim Crane's remarks regarding the cheating scandal.
Asked about the scandal that cost the Astros $5 million dollars, four top draft picks and two key men in the organization, Crane said of Cashman, "There's the letter (showing New York was fined for spying in 2015-16) and you were doing it too. You were there, dude."
Cashman said what the Yankees did was a "parking ticket" compared to 162 felonies. He claimed the Yankees were only found guilty of "misuse of video equipment." So, I guess the Astros could say they were only guilty of misuse of a trash receptacle.
This whole exchange began when Cashman used the Astros as his sole excuse for the Yankees not winning a World Series since 2009. Quick fact check: Houston didn't even join the American League until 2013, there was a minor obstacle called the Los Angeles Dodgers waiting for the Yankees if they had beaten Houston in 2017 and the Yankees have not even won their own division but once since 2012. Where do they get off thinking they'd have a World Series sewn up if not for the Astros? Chutzpah, Mr. Cashman, not anything resembling reality.
I'll say this. I wouldn't want either Crane or Cashman defending me in court. Crane should take his own advice and "keep (his) mouth shut". Please, for the sake of all of us, move on.
- Bob Hulsey