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AL Wild Card Series Game 1: Astros at Twins

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Grab your coat, get your hat, leave your worries on the doorstep for a while.

Houston Astros v Minnesota Twins
He’s back.
Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

Time: 1:08 Central. Vegas Line: -170 MIN / HOU +155

Weather: Partly sunny, teensy chance of mild showers, 55° at first pitch

Opponent’s nice SB site: The Crawfish Boxes

TV: ABC (!) Radio: So lonely without FSN hanging around

So they’re calling this the “Wild Card Series,” even though the Twins won their division and Houston had the fifth-best record among AL non-division winners. OK, whatever.

Astros starter Zach Greinke’s early-career challenges facing depression and social-anxiety disorder are well known. Unfortunately, since there are jerks in this our world, some have mocked him for those challenges, including the notoriously well-behaved Yankees Stadium fans in last year’s playoffs, or this snarky bit from an mlb.com writer who should (and usually does) know better.

Although we all applaud Greinke for his fine career in the face of such obstacles, we do want the Twins to beat him today, so here’s the relevant skinny. 2020 digits:

While Greinke’s OPS splits are concerning for Minnesota’s lefties, they’re also career outliers. As is Maeda’s BAbip. Greinke’s velocity is down a little on his fastball and the slider has been his most effective pitch. (John had the fuller analysis here.) He’s struggled over his last seven starts (5.73 ERA), yet most Twins hitters weren’t on fire to finish the season either (.224/.302/.416 from the White Sox series onwards).

Finally, although much has been made of the Twins’ 16-game postseason losing streak, this preview points out a lesser-known streak; venerable Astros manager Dusty Baker (now the first manager in MLB history to reach the playoffs with five different teams) hasn’t won a postseason series since 2003. That was the year when his Cubs advanced to within five outs of a World Series berth, only to choke away their 3-0 lead after the infamous Steve Bartman incident. Baker, who is generally regarded as one of the sport’s class acts, really blamed the heck of of poor Bartman in a postgame interview. If you want a cause for curses, that could be one for Mr. Baker.

Today's Lineups

ASTROS TWINS
George Springer - CF Luis Arraez - 2B
Jose Altuve - 2B Byron Buxton - CF
Michael Brantley - DH Max Kepler - RF
Alex Bregman - 3B Nelson Cruz - DH
Kyle Tucker - LF Eddie Rosario - LF
Yuli Gurriel - 1B Miguel Sano - 1B
Carlos Correa - SS Jorge Polanco - SS
Josh Reddick - RF Ryan Jeffers - C
Martin Maldonado - C Marwin Gonzalez - 3B
Zack Greinke - RHP Kenta Maeda - RHP

All TTers please send your good vibe sympathy to imakesandwichesforaliving, who couldn’t cover this game due to an unfortunate accident involving his attempt to create the world’s largest Himalayan Oreo. He escaped injury yet had his keyboard ruined beyond repair by the colossal filling mixture, and it takes time delivering a new one to Tibetan monasteries.

Go read any of the series preview stuff you missed, and GO TWINS GO!