For the first three months of the 2023 season, there was a case to be made that the Pablo Lopez-for-Luis Arraez swap was simply a “push”—or perhaps worse—for the Minnesota Twins. But even as the Twins scuffled through the first half and Arraez flirted with .400, I kept telling folks (my family could corroborate this quite easily!) that Pablo would be a difference maker if this club could just make the postseason. Well, the playoffs were achieved and Lopez has certainly lived up to the billing—at no time more so than tonight.
No matter how good a certified ace can be, a little run support never hurts—and the Twins provided that early in this one.
In the top of the first inning, a Carlos Correa double scored Jorge Polanco to give the visitors a 1-0.
In the top of the second, Kyle Farmer planted one atop the Crawford Boxes, allowing himself and Willi Castro to trot around the bases. 3-0 Twins!
Lopez cruised through the first three innings and even struck out Yordan Alvarez to lead off the fourth. A first-and-third, two outs jam popped up—but Pablo calmly put Chas McCormick away on three pitches. Threat neutralized.
In the top of the fifth, C4 would detonate for a second time—a two-RBI single that chased Framber Valdez and gave MN a 5-0 advantage!
The Twins again had batting action in the seventh, with an Eduard Julian pinch-hit single plating the game’s sixth run (even with Correa thrown out at home to end the rally).
With some doubt as to whether Lopez would ascend the dugout steps one final time, he did so and put up another shutout frame. His final line: 7 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 7 K, 1 BB. Unless we’re counting guys from the Deadball Era, that's the deepest Twins postseason start since Johan Santana in 2004 or Jack Morris in 1991.
The bottom of the eighth inning brought a little unease, with Brock Stewart walking Alex Bregman and then seeing Alvarez ruin a perfectly good horsehide. Still, it was 6-2 Twins and Stewart escaped the inning with no further damage done.
Looking for the final three outs, Jhoan Duran had the easiest inning of his in recent memory (helped by some nice Alex Kirilloff digs at 1B). Fittingly, the final out was recorded on a smash into the hole at short—where Correa dove, sprung to his feet, and whipped a seed to AK to nip Jeremy Pena.
Your final: Minnesota Twins 6, Houston Astros 2.
Folks, these Twins aren’t just putting in an appearance this 2023 postseason. They are here to battle and have the pitching, veteran leadership, and roster flexibility to compete every single inning of every single game. With the series knotted at 1-1, the Twins will head home to a sold-out Target Field on Tuesday afternoon.
I think I speak for everyone here when I say: I—CANNOT—WAIT!!!
- Pablo Lopez (see: all of the above)
- Carlos Correa: 3-4, 1 BB, 3 RBI, and provided the veteran swagger need to steal one in Space City.
- Home plate umpire D.J. Reyburn, who I’m guessing will not have a great Ump Scorecard from this one. The strike zone seemed to shift all over the place all night long—frustrating for both squads.
Comment of the Game
- Brandon Books gives props to Arraez—but also realizes the mastery on the mound tonight.