The Minnesota Twins proved that they are not to be taken lightly after Game 2 of the ALDS when they blitzed the defending World Series champion Houston Astros 6-2 in Texas to knot the ALDS at 1-1 entering Tuesday night’s pivotal Game 3.
The lines in Vegas didn’t shift too seismically but the magic of Minnesota in the playoffs and the exploits of Kirby Puckett and the gang back in the late 80s and early 90s began to creep into the consciousness of today’s baseball news.
Maybe this is Minnesota’s fairy tale season.
In Game 3, Dusty Baker’s Boyz put a brief halt to the optimism and the reality of the well-rounded team Minnesota was facing hit the Twin City faithful like a sack of baseballs as the Astros pounded out 14 hits en route to a 12-1 thrashing.
The Astros sit just one game away from clinching their seventh straight trip to the ALCS.
The baseball world got reminded of how potent and deep that Astros lineup is when at full strength, especially batters 1-5.
Every player in the starting lineup, except Yainer Diaz, had a hit by the 7th inning. The top five batters in the order were 7-for-19 with six RBI and just two strikeouts though seven innings.
The pesky Twins managed only three hits but kept fighting. They had their opportunities to score, but couldn’t get the key hit when needed, even leaving the bases loaded against Javier in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Yordan Alvarez continues to rake after winning American League Player of the Month in September. He added an insurance run in the 9th-inning with a solo blast to make it 7-1.
Former MVP Jose Abreu followed up his first inning three-run shot with a two-run shot to put the game out of reach at 9-1. It was easily his most impactful game as an Astros player.
Houston Astros Pitching Has Been Lights Out
For all of Houston’s offensive exploits, it was the pitching that fueled Dusty Baker to his 53rd playoff win and his 30th as manager of the Astros.
The playoffs are where you separate the clutch performers from the regular season imposters. Houston has two of the best arms when it comes to postseason dominance.
Those arms also hold the two longest active postseason scoreless streaks in Major League Baseball.
Starter Cristian Javier racked up nine strikeouts through six innings in Game 3 and now has tossed 17 straight innings without surrendering a run.
Reliever Bryan Abreu has a steak of 13.3 postseason scoreless innings. Two pitchers who were very pivotal in Houston’s World Series run in 2022 continue to show up this postseason.
The Twins managed just three hits and the look on Carlos Correa’s face as the camera flashed to him in the waning moments of the ninth inning was one of concern.
Marcus Semien and his Texas Rangers busted the brooms out on their way to sweeping the Rays in the Wild Card round, despite him only going 1-for-9 in the series and 2-for-17 overall in his last three games.
If Semien can break the skid and join his other teammates in the party at the plate, they have a chance to defeat the Orioles.
Elation was spread across the face of the 2021 MLBbro.com Player of Year as he and his teammates dosed themselves with champagne after their victory over Tampa Bay.
“I do not wear the goggles,” Semien told reporters during the melee. “When you get the burn of the champagne in your eyes, it means you did something good.”
Wednesday afternoon Texas, who has finished with a record under .500 for the past six seasons, including going 68-94 in Semien’s first year with the team, won its first playoff series since current Atlanta Braves third base coach Ron Washington managed the 2011 team to the World Series after winning the ALCS in Tampa.
It was an all-around dominating effort for the Rangers who won both games by a combined total of 11-1, allowing the only run the Ray scored in the series to come in the 8th inning of Game 2.
Rookies stole the show at the plate for Texas.
Outfielder Evan Carter introduced himself to the world by reaching safely in his first six postseason plate appearances, capping the final one of those six off with a two-run back-breaking homer to extend the lead to four in Game 2.
All-Star third baseman Josh Jung, who has molded his work ethic around Semien and the other members of their star studded infield had a great series himself with a triple and a pair of doubles.
The Orioles, who had the best regular season record in the American League are a different animal than the one the Rangers just slayed and if they want to advance past them into the Championship Series, they will need more from Semien at the plate.
If Semien, who hit a franchise record 10 leadoff Bro Bombs this year and became the fifth leadoff hitter in MLB history to reach 100 RBI can get the party started early, the Rangers can take a stranglehold of the series and take the crowd out of the equation.
Game 1 will be played Saturday afternoon in Camden Yards at noon central time.
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – There is only one thing that Dusty Baker needs to do in order to statistically cement his legacy as one of the greatest managers the game has ever seen: win a World Series. He’s already established his value among the greatest skippers, and he’s said time and again that a World Series win would be sweet, but it doesn’t make or break his legacy or his feelings about an illustrious career that has lasted decades.
After pulling off a 3-2 win against the New York Yankees in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, the Astros have a commanding 2-0 series lead heading to the Bronx. Now they are only two wins from returning to the Fall Classic, which would be their fourth time in six years.
If the Astros hold on and win this series, it will be Baker’s third World Series appearance in his managerial career, with this season being the second straight crack at a ring. Baker has done everything you can ask a manager to do. He has led five different teams to division titles, he is only one of nine managers to win pennants in both leagues, one of 12 to have at least 2,000 managerial wins, and has won the manager of the year in the NL three times.
His influence on the culture and spot in Cooperstown is secured when he decides to call it quits, but the ring is still vital to his resumé so that his career can be kept in proper historical perspective moving forward.
When people argue who the greatest of all-time is, not just for best MLB manager, but for participants in any pro sport, the ones who are always in that conversation all have rings, because at the end of the day, championships are the number one thing anyone looks at over any statistic.
Of course, there are plenty of all-time greats that have never won it all, but they are never considered to be the greatest since they were never able to help bring a team to the promised land. So that is the historical conundrum that Dusty Baker finds himself in right now.
Baker definitely will be considered an all-time great, but he will not be a contender for greatest of all time.
If there was any team that could finally help Baker get over that edge, it would be the 2022 Houston Astros. They are playing a Yankees team that had a very underachieving second half of the season, and the Astros are in command of the series. If the Stros do advance, then they would face a sub-90-win NL pennant winner and would be huge favorites in that series.
But all of what happened in the regular season does not matter. The teams that are successful in October are the ones who are hot at the right time. But the best part for Baker is, he’s not leading a team that’s just hot, he’s leading a team that is absolutely scorching, as they have not lost in this postseason yet.
If he just wins one championship, just one, whether it is with the Astros, or another team in the future, then he will get his seat at that exclusive table of the greatest managers of all time. If he doesn’t, he’ll have to settle for being a living legend whose contributions to the game and baseball culture are equaled by few, if any.
Unfortunately for Josh Naylor and the Cleveland Guardians his “Rock The Baby” celebration only served as fuel to New York’s fire, as the Bronx Bombers would score early and often behind homers by MLBbro Bombers Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton in a 5-1 victory to clinch the ALDS in five games on Tuesday afternoon in the Bronx.
Naylor went 0-4 amidst heavy boos all night from the Bronx faithful, and they even broke out the famous “Who’s Your Daddy?” chant we saw them use against Boston Red Sox legend Pedro Martinez in the 2004 ALCS.
Except for his now legendary and embarrassing moment, Josh surely didn’t have the postseason he would have liked, slashing .194/.194/.323 with one homerun and three RBI in 31 plate appearances. This was a considerable drop from the .256/.319/.452 he hit during the regular season, his first full season with Guardians.
The Guardians were simply overpowered by the Yankees, but despite being eliminated tonight there’s a lot of positives that we can take from their 2022 run. Projected by many to finish third or dead last in the AL Central — in what many considered a “rebuild” year — the Guardians not only won the division but were one game away from an ALCS berth.
Now armed with playoff experience, it will be interesting to see not only how this club grows but just how this front office goes about adding to the roster. The Guardians haven’t been known to spend recently, but a few moves during the offseason could see Cleveland return as favorites to win the division again.
The Rise of Triston McKenzie
Triston McKenzie probably took the biggest step forward this season aside from Cy Young candidate & fellow AL Central member Dylan Cease. Known as a pitcher who has all the tools but just needed to work on his command, McKenzie showed flashes of brilliance this season and created a formidable 1-2 punch with Cy Young winner Shane Bieber.
His 11-11 win/loss record doesn’t reflect just how good Triston was this season, so let’s take a deeper dive into some of his numbers. He finished the season with a 2.96 ERA in 191.1 innings pitched, striking out 190 batters while surrendering 138 hits in the same span.
McKenzie’s curveball was dominant this season, as hitters were batting .140 and slugging a lowly .203 against it all season.
Will Naylor Bros Get Opportunity to Play Together?
Something to keep an eye on heading into Spring Training with this ball club is Josh Naylor’s younger brother, Bo. The Guardians may have added him as a third catcher this postseason season but given how unproductive their everyday catchers have been offensively, he may get the opportunity to see his role increase.
Triston McKenzie, the dynamic, golden-armed MLBbro will be making his 2022 American League Division Series debut against the New York Yankees in Game 3 with the series tied 1-1. Rachel Hill has the preview.