Game One Is Pivotal For Both Teams

ALWC Game 1 Preview: Astros vs. Twins

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

It might not have been pretty, and may not have met pre-season expectations, especially with all the injuries and headwinds along the way. Yet, the Astros' regular-season was enough to get them into the playoffs, and as we are likely to find out with this aptly-named Wild Card Round, all it takes is a ticket to the dance.

A losing record at the end of the first 60 is now a thing of the past. Everyone starts 0-0, needing to take two of three against their opponent to move forward into the Divisional Series. Here's a quick breakdown and some facts about Houston's first game against the Minnesota Twins:

Game Facts

When: Tuesday, 1:00 PM Central

Where: Target Field - Minneapolis, Minnesota

TV: ABC

Streaming: ESPN App

Pitching Matchup: Zack Greinke vs. Kenta Maeda

Series: Tied 0-0.

Series Schedule

Date & Time (Central) Location Pitching Matchup
Game 1 Tue 9/29, 1:00 PM Target Field, Minneapolis Greinke vs. Maeda
Game 2 Wed 9/30, 12:00 PM Target Field, Minneapolis TBD vs. Berrios+
Game 3* Thu 10/1, TBD Target Field, Minneapolis TBD vs. Pineda+

* If necessary.
+ Projected starters.

Game Storylines

Did Houston pack their postseason bats?

Over the last three years, the Astros have started the playoffs with wins in their first game, and it may be in part due to one key component: scoring first via home runs. In 2017, it was an Alex Bregman solo homer off of Chris Sale in the first inning to start the scoring against the Red Sox. In 2018, it was Bregman again, this time a solo shot in the fourth off of Corey Kluber of the Indians. In 2019, it was Jose Altuve with a two-run bomb against Tyler Glasnow as they'd go on to take game one against the Rays.

Can they make it four straight years? If so, they'll have to do it against another formidable pitcher in Kenta Maeda, who allowed just nine home runs in his eleven regular-season starts, only two of which were at Target Field. Also, those three games mentioned earlier were at Minute Maid Park, where the Astros had the support of their home crowd, along with the comfort of their own stadium. This year, they'll start on the road, and in the now-normal audience of cardboard cutouts. Having said that, if they can get their signature score-starting home run in the top of the first by one of their key bats, that could very well set the momentum in their favor to upset the Twins.

Which Greinke will we see?

On September 3rd, Zack Greinke went six innings while allowing three runs to the Rangers, still coming away with a win to improve him to 3-0 with a 2.91 ERA. That was his eighth start of the season, two of which he went six or more innings without allowing a single run, including an eight-inning gem at home against the Rockies.

In his final four starts after that, Greinke went 0-3 with a 6.53 ERA over that span, allowing four, five, three, and three earned runs, respectively, and unable to go more than six innings in any of them. That finished his year at 3-3 with a 4.03 ERA, not exactly riding a high into the postseason. So, can he hit the reset button and deal as he did in the early parts of the season? Or, will the Twins, who own the sixth-most homers as a team in 2020, find a wrinkle against him early that they can exploit? The answer to that, along with what run support his offense provides him, will be one of the game's deciding factors.

I don't need to tell anyone the obvious here; in a best-of-three series, taking the first game will be pivotal for both sides. Winning the first game and only needing one more is a tremendously more advantageous position to be in, instead of needing to win two straight to advance. It sets up for an entertaining series and set of matchups across the league. Get your popcorn ready.

Be sure to check SportsMap after the final out for an in-depth recap of the game, and follow me on Twitter for updates and reactions throughout each playoff game: @ChrisCampise

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Texans fall to 1-6. Photo by Getty Images

Don't you worry, son. It will all be over soon.

- Teddy KGB, Rounders

The Texans horrible season continued on Sunday when they were soundly beaten by the Green Bay Packers. The Texans got some garbage points to make the score look better late, but they were never in this. They could not run the football, and even though he had a receiving score, maybe it's time the David Johnson experiment ended. Aaron Rodgers ate their souls with four touchdown passes and the Texans fell to 1-6. Five thoughts on the game:

1) First impressions? Not so much. For the seventh time this season, the Texans failed to score on their opening drive. They had ONE touchdown last season on their opening drive, week 17 against the Titans. While Bill O'Brien still gets a lot of that blame, Tim Kelly is now 0 for 3 as an OC. Whoever takes over next season has to fix this. Especially against good teams, the Texans simply can't afford to get down early. They were down 21-0 at the half and never had a real chance.

2) There is good news! Hopefully this lets the team know that there is no chance of anything this season. With the trade deadline looming, any veteran not named Watson or Tunsil should be available for draft picks. It remains unlikely they will do anything, but they have some pieces that might bring a return. Hopefully they no longer think the season can be salvaged.

3) They really aren't close against good teams. The little things continue to be a problem. Key penalties to hurt drives; untimely failures on third down. The offense has to do a better job staying on the field, because the defense just is not good enough to stop solid offenses. Things got worse when their best corner, Bradley Roby went out with injury. Overall, the Packers were better on both sides of the ball, and they made the Texans look bad throughout. The Texans needed some breaks to go their way in order to be competitive, like what happened last week against Tennessee. That didn't happen, and they were never in the game.

4) They won special teams! They blocked a punt in the fourth quarter that helped make the final score a little closer. They also blocked a kick last week. Other than their overpaid kicker (who missed a field goal), the special teams have been solid. Their punter might be the best player at his job on the entire team. So there's that. A positive, right?

5) The future? Meh. The Texans get the Jaguars, Browns and Patriots next, so they should have a chance at some wins, but they could also lose to all three of those teams. And with no high draft pick reward at the end of the year, there is little left to play or root for in this season.

With nine games left, you would like to think there was something left to care about. But if it isn't over yet, it's as Teddy said: It will all be over soon.

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