Astros vs Twins – 2020 MLB Expert Analysis

The first playoff game of the 2020 MLB postseason is Tuesday afternoon from the Twin Cities as the AL Central champion Minnesota Twins host the Wild-Card Houston Astros. The Twins are solid favorites on the MLB odds.

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Why Bet on Houston? | 2020 MLB Expert Analysis

The Astros will be making their 14th appearance in the postseason in club history in what is the 59th year of the franchise that began in 1962. The Astros have some experience in Wild Card games, winning their only appearance in 2015, in a 3-0 win over the Yankees in the Bronx. 2B Jose Altuve, RF George Springer and SS Carlos Correa all started that winner-take-all game for the Astros.

The Astros are vying to become just the fifth team to make four or more straight trips to the LCS. If they pull that off, they’d join the Braves (1995-99), A’s (1971-75), Yankees (1998-2001), and Cardinals (2011-14). Manager Dusty Baker has become the first manager in MLB history to take five different teams to the postseason.

The Astros were heavy favorites to win the AL West again this year but disappointed. No player more so than former AL MVP Altuve as he slashed just.219/.286/.344 with five homers, 18 RBI and two stolen bases in 48 games.

Overall, Houston ranks in the middle of the pack in scoring. Only 39% of its runs have been scored on homers, and the Astros rank 20th in runs per game via the long ball. Springer tends to heat up in the playoffs, though. Over his past 33 playoff games, the 2017 World Series MVP has hit .292/.382/.650 with 13 home runs. He could have a big postseason, then earn a big deal in free agency.

It’s former AL Cy Young winner Zack Greinke on the mound Tuesday. Greinke surrendered three runs and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings last Wednesday in a loss to the Mariners. The poor outing pushed Greinke’s ERA up to 4.03 and it’s just the fourth time in his career that he’s finished with an ERA over 4.00; he also did so in 2005 (his second big-league season), 2010 and 2016. He had a 3-3 record, so it’s also be the first time since 2010 that he hasn’t finished with a winning record.

Greinke did strike out 67 batters this year and walked just nine. Greinke started the year strong, posting a 1.84 ERA in his first five starts, but he had a 5.73 ERA over his final seven outings of the regular season. The veteran right-hander went 0-2 with a 4.68 ERA in five starts for Houston in the 2019 postseason.

Why Bet on Minnesota? | 2020 MLB Expert Analysis

The Twins rather amazingly have managed to lose a record 16 straight playoff games. Thirteen of those losses have come against the Yankees. Lucky for Minnesota, they’ll duck the Yankees in the wild card round, but regardless the pressure will be heavily on Minnesota to win a postseason game for the first time since 2004.

The Twins led the American League in overall home run percentage this year. They also led the league in HR% off righties, and it wasn’t close. The numbers were polar opposite against left-handers: Minnesota finished dead last in the AL in HR% off lefties. The Minnesota attack has been more dependent on homers for scoring than any other team on the AL side of the playoffs with 51% of the Twins’ runs coming via the long ball.

Outfielder Byron Buxton (concussion) participated in Monday’s team workout at Target Field. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli declined to get into specifics about Buxton’s status for Tuesday’s postseason opener. “We just want to learn as much as we can before we move forward and put anything in stone,” said Baldelli, “but it was a relatively good day.”  Buxton missed the final two games of the regular season after displaying mild concussion symptoms following a hit-by-pitch to the head on Friday.

Josh Donaldson took batting practice at Target Field on Monday. Donaldson sat out the final two games of the regular season after experiencing cramping in his right calf on Friday, but he should be good to go Tuesday. The veteran third baseman put up an .842 OPS with six home runs in 28 games this summer.

It’s Kenta Maeda (6-1) on the mound. Maeda went six innings while allowing three runs with nine strikeouts in a win over the Tigers last Wednesday. Maeda only made one mistake in the game, a three-run shot to Miguel Cabrera in the sixth. He had zero issues in the first five innings.

Maeda finished 2020 as MLB’s qualified WHIP leader (0.75) and would have been a Cy Young Award front-runner in most years with his 2.70 ERA and 80 strikeouts. He’ll make his first playoff start since 2016.

Expert PredictionTwins 5, Astros 4 

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