The Minnesota Twins put up a good fight but, ultimately, the inevitability of the Houston Astros in the postseason prevailed, as the Astros advanced to the ALCS for the seventh straight season with a 3-2 victory Wednesday in ALDS Game 4.
No. 2 Houston Astros at No. 3 Minnesota Twins, Game 4: Astros 3, Twins 2 (Houston wins 3-1)
The runs came early for Houston and from two of the oldest players on the roster. Michael Brantley, who played in only 15 games in the regular season due to a setback after shoulder surgery, hit a game-tying solo shot off Twins starter Joe Ryan in the second inning.
José Abreu, playing his first season with the Astros, followed up with his third homer in the span of two games in the fourth inning, an opposite-field, two-run long ball that put the Astros ahead for good.
That was all Houston needed, thanks to a strong start from José Urquidy and a shutdown bullpen performance from the usual suspects: Hector Neris, Bryan Abreu and Ryan Pressly.
Sometimes you don’t quite realize how important a play is in the first inning. Astros shortstop Jeremy Peña made one of those plays against the second batter of the game.
After Eduoard Julien led off for the Twins with a double, Jorge Polanco hit a line drive up the middle that should’ve at the very least put runners on the corner with no outs. Instead, a well-placed Peña grabbed the liner out of the air and dove to tag out Julien at second, emptying the bases.
Five pitches later, Twins star Royce Lewis hit a solo homer to put his team on the board. Good thing for Houston there weren’t men on base — especially in a one-run win. Minnesota’s only other run of the game came on an Edouard Julien solo homer in the sixth.
No one picked Urquidy as the strong point in this Astros rotation after a regular season that saw him post a 5.29 ERA, miss half of the season due to a shoulder injury and work out of the bullpen for much of the second half.
So, naturally, he threw 5⅔ innings Wednesday with three hits, two earned runs, a walk and six strikeouts, regularly quieting a loudly hopeful Target Field crowd. Five of the strikeouts came in a row.
The Astros will face the Rangers, who swept the Tampa Bay Rays in the wild-card round and the Baltimore Orioles in the ALDS, on Sunday in ALCS Game 1. The Twins, after notching their first postseason victories in nearly two decades this October, have been eliminated from the playoffs.