SERIES PREVIEW

Astros vs. Twins: It's time to flip the switch

It's playoff time! Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

PROBABLE STARTERS

Tue, Sept. 29 - HOU: Zack Greinke (3-3, 4.03) vs. MIN: Kenta Maeda (6-1, 2.70)

Wed, Sept. 30 - HOU: TBD vs. MIN: Jose Berrios (5-4, 4.00)

Thur, Oct. 1 - HOU: Lance McCullers (3-3, 3.93) vs. MIN: Michael Pineda (2-0, 3.38)

STORYLINES

Flip the Switch: The Astros limp into the playoffs with a 29-31 record, definitely a beneficiary of the expanded postseason picture for 2020. However, once the postseason starts, all the teams are 0-0. Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve started to show glimpses of turning the corner in the final series against the Rangers, while Kyle Tucker and George Springer carried the offense down the stretch. If those four can click combined with the ever-so-steady Michael Brantley, then the Astros have the opportunity to play spoiler in Minnesota.

Home Dreamin' vs. Road Demons: The Minnesota Twins played 24-7 baseball within the confines of Target Field, while the Houston Astros were 9-23 when they played anywhere other than the juicebox. It's certainly an ugly split, and the lack of home field advantage is definitely a factor for the Astros.

Who Chunks Up the Deuce: Zack Greinke is slated to start game one, while Lance McCullers looks poised to take the rubber in game three. One of Framber Valdez or Jose Urquidy will take the mound in game two. Urquidy was nails in the World Series last year. He's a bulldog that performs consistently and gives the team a chance to win every time he takes the hill. Look for Dusty to use Urquidy in game two, while keeping Framber available as a bridge to more trusted relievers.

Doors Open & Close: The series in Minnesota could be the last time that George Springer, Michael Brantley, Josh Reddick, and Yuli Gurriel ever suit up for the Astros. Three of those four have been key contributors in Houston since 2017, while Brantley joined the fray in 2019. World Series title or not, 2020 represents the close of the Altuve-Springer window in Houston. While it's possible Springer could come back, Altuve isn't going anywhere, and the Astros will still be good, future titles will come with a new-look roster on the backs of guys like Bregman, Tucker, and Yordan Alvarez.

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The losing streak continues

Mariners get walk-off win over short-staffed Astros

Alex De Goti had an impressive debut. Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

After a brutal homestand capped off by losing five players to the IL for health and safety protocols, the once 5-1 Astros brought their now 6-6 record to T-Mobile park in Seattle to try and right the ship. They'd have to do it with new and young players in the lineup using the "next man up" mentality to get some wins against the first-place Mariners.

Though the young bats would work themselves into a lead most of the night, Houston's bullpen wouldn't be able to hold the Mariners down, with Seattle ultimately walking things off in the ninth.

Final Score: Mariners 6, Astros 5

Astros' Record: 6-7, fourth in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Anthony Misiewicz (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Ryne Stanek (0-1)

After a quiet start, Houston gets three in the fifth

After cruising through the Astros through the first four innings, allowing only a walk over that span, Houston was able to put up a big inning against Yusei Kikuchi in the top of the fifth. Carlos Correa notched the first hit of the night, followed by a walk by Taylor Jones to put two on base.



That brought Alex De Goti, making his major-league debut, to the plate and, in his second career at-bat, would get his first hit and RBI, bringing in Correa from second on a single. A second run would come on the same play on a throwing error, then Chaz McCormick made it a three-run inning with an RBI-double, putting Houston out front 3-0.

Urquidy comes an out shy of a quality start

Meanwhile, Jose Urquidy was doing well through five innings. On track for a much-needed quality start, the Mariners would tag him in the bottom of the sixth, getting three-straight hits to bring in two runs to lead off the frame and leaving a runner on second base with no outs.

Urquidy would rebound to get the next two batters on strikeouts, but at 90 pitches and with a left-handed hitter up next, Dusty Baker would bring in lefty Brooks Raley to try and get out of the inning with the one-run lead intact. Raley would do his job, putting Uruidy's line final: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 90 P.

Teams trade two-run seventh innings

The young bats for Houston struck again in the top of the seventh, with Jones and De Goti leading it off with back-to-back singles before Jason Castro would load the bases with a walk. With two outs, Aledmys Diaz would push the lead back to three with a two-RBI single, making it 5-2.

With Raley out after facing his one batter, next out of Houston's bullpen was Bryan Abreu to help maintain Houston's lead. Instead, he would give up two runs on two hits and a walk while getting just two outs before Baker moved on to Blake Taylor, who would get the last out of the seventh with Houston hanging on to a one-run lead at 5-4.

Mariners get the walk-off win

Taylor remained in the game in the bottom of the eighth, and after getting an out, would allow a game-tying solo home run to Evan White before injuring himself trying to field an infield single. Ryne Stanek entered and finished off the eighth, sending the tie game to the ninth.

After Houston came up empty in the top half, Stanek remained in the game in the bottom of the ninth, attempting to force extras. Back-to-back walks ended Stanek's night, with the Astros hoping Ryan Pressly could bail them out. He couldn't, though, giving up the walk-off hit as the Mariners would take the opener, 6-5.

Up Next: Game two of this three-game set will start an hour earlier on Saturday, with first pitch at 8:10 PM Central. Zack Greinke (1-1, 4.08 ERA) will try to rebound from a poor start his last time out for the Astros, while the Mariners will hand the ball to Chris Flexen (1-0, 4.50 ERA).

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