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Astros: Key plays, takeaways from Wild Card sweep of Twins

Sep 30, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa (1) celebrates with second baseman Jose Altuve (27) after hitting a solo home run in seventh inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 30, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa (1) celebrates with second baseman Jose Altuve (27) after hitting a solo home run in seventh inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Houston Astros are moving on after sweeping the Twins in the Wild Card round.

After the Houston Astros finished off a somewhat improbable sweep of the Minnesota Twins in the Wild Card round, shortstop Carlos Correa had the perfect words. “I know a lot of people are mad. I know a lot of people don’t want to see us here. But what are they going to say now?”

While the haters are wiping away their tears, the Astros are celebrating and awaiting their next opponent. They defeated the Twins 3-1 on Wednesday to complete the sweep and will face either the A’s or White Sox beginning Monday at Dodger Stadium. The decisive third game of that A’s-White Sox series takes place today.

We already examined Game One’s key plays and takeaways, but Game Two was equally interesting. Kyle Tucker got the Astros on the board with an RBI single in the fourth, but the Twins got the run back on an RBI double by Nelson Cruz in the fifth. A great relay from Correa and tag from Martin Maldonado prevented a second run from scoring.

Correa then put the Astros back in front with a monster solo home run to center field in the seventh, and Tucker added an insurance run in the top of the ninth. But as with the first game, the real story here was the excellent pitching.

Jose Urquidy got the start and allowed one run in 4.1 innings. Brooks Raley gave up the double to Cruz, but Cristian Javier followed him by tossing three hitless innings, allowing two walks and striking out two to earn the win. Ryan Pressly pitched a clean ninth for the save.

Key Takeaways

Did we mention the pitching? The Astros allowed just two runs in two games against the homer-happy Twins, and they did it by getting the bulk of their innings from players with little or no playoff experience. Framber Valdez, Urquidy and Javier combined to throw 12.1 innings and allow just one run.

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Notably, Dusty Baker did not use Blake Taylor, Enoli Paredes or Andre Scrubb. Pressly and Raley were only called upon in the second game, and Lance McCullers wasn’t needed either. On one hand, they’ll be rested for the next series. On the other hand, you have to worry about rust.

On the offensive side of things, the Astros didn’t totally exorcise their September demons, but they did enough. They had only two extra-base hits — Michael Brantley’s double in Game One and Correa’s homer in Game Two — but they got people on base and pushed across runs when they needed to.

Playoff Correa seems to have shown up, and Tucker and Brantley have put together some good at-bats as well. The rest of the lineup was largely missing in action, but two games is a small sample. The next series will be a best-of-five and hopefully the remaining bats will come to play.

Our biggest takeaway, though, is that these Astros shouldn’t be counted out. They’ve gone through a veritable meat grinder these past few months on top of a difficult season. They don’t have Justin Verlander, Roberto Osuna or Yordan Alvarez, but they can beat anyone and certainly won’t go away quietly.

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