The Houston Astros are inevitable.
From locking down the American League West on the final day of the regular season, to being the only division champ to win a Game 1 in this round, to stomping on the Minnesota Twins in their own house, the Astros are doing exactly what we all expected in October. Houston won the division series in four games and advanced to their seventh consecutive American League Championship Series. Now, only the Texas Rangers stand in their way of reaching the World Series for the third straight year.
Here’s more from Houston’s 3-2 series-clinching win Wednesday.
What we’ll remember
Bryan Abreu being Bryan Abreu. His lights-out performance in the eighth inning was goosebump-inducing. Six outs away from sending the Astros to the ALCS, Abreu struck out the side on 12 pitches. The third batter, Edouard Julien, had homered in his previous at-bat and Abreu retired him with ease on three pitches.
Ryan Pressly had the tougher task, attempting to close the game with a one-run lead against the heart of the Twins order. But he’s Ryan Pressly, so he improved to 13-for-13 in postseason saves. It was just a brilliant performance from the back-end of the Astros’ bullpen, in the highest leverage situations this sport has to offer.
Game 4 MVP
Another Abreu! José Abreu receives MVP honors for crushing his third home run in the past two days. Who does he think he is, Yordan Álvarez? Abreu’s two-run home run in the fourth inning broke a 1-1 game and gave the Astros the only edge they would need to secure the win. A Chicago White Sox transplant and the prize possession of the Astros’ winter, Abreu battled injury and posted the worst offensive season of his career — all while earning $19.5 million.
Though his power was missing in the regular season, Houston’s first baseman has found it at the right time. If Abreu can continue slugging this fall, Astros fans will have forgotten all about his rotten spring and summer.
Inside the box score
The Astros are 21-6 in the division series dating back to 2017. Moreover, they’re 8-4 in ALDS road games. Playing away from home in front of adversarial crowds simply doesn’t bother them. Five of their ALDS-clinching wins have come in true road games.
Houston’s seven straight ALCS appearances are a record. The Astros were already just the second team to advance to six straight LCS (since 1969), joining the 1991-99 Atlanta Braves. Since 2017, the Astros have played more postseason games (90) and earned more postseason wins (56) than any other club.
What surprised us?
That the Twins didn’t put up more of the same fight at home that they did at Minute Maid Park in Game 2 after falling behind in the series. Granted, Minnesota had ace Pablo López pitching at his best, tossing seven shutout innings and handing the Astros their first home ALDS loss since 2015. Things are always easier when your ace is stifling one of the toughest lineups in baseball. But the Twins got an excellent performance from their pitching staff in Game 4.
Starter Joe Ryan and five more relievers combined to give up just three runs, which kept the game close all evening. Minnesota’s offense, however, responded with just one hit after the first inning. Julien finally broke a drought in the sixth with a solo shot to left that cut the Twins’ deficit to 3-2. That alone obviously won’t cut it against the defending champions, and it was a notable drop-off from Minnesota’s offensive effort in the first two games at Minute Maid.
The Twins’ rebound season is over and the Astros advance to face the Rangers in the ALCS, which begins Sunday. Thanks to this ALDS wrapping up in four games, the Astros will get three days of respite from the hysterics of the postseason and daily grind of the game. The short break also gives them the opportunity to reset the rotation as Dusty Baker and company see fit. No matter how Baker decides to slice it, Houston’s top arms in Justin Verlander and Framber Valdez will receive extra days of rest before kicking off the ALCS.
For the Twins, they go out on a somber note following their first ALDS appearance since 2019. But they also won their first playoff game in 19 years and first playoff series in 21 years. That won’t be forgotten or devalued in Minnesota anytime soon. This offseason, the front office will have to reconcile with the fact that this roster still lacks the punch to match, let alone beat a powerhouse like Houston. This series showed that another big-time starter and more lineup depth could go a long way for Minnesota. But experience was also a factor in this postseason, and the Twins gained six valuable games of it. They also received loud and enormous support from sell-out Target Field crowds.
This was a really good season for the Twins, and perhaps the foundation for a great one in the near future.
Deesha Thosar is an MLB writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the Mets as a beat reporter for the New York Daily News. The daughter of Indian immigrants, Deesha grew up on Long Island and now lives in Queens. Follow her on Twitter at @DeeshaThosar.
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