Now the reigning World Series champions will face Minnesota ace Pablo López in Sunday’s Game 2 (8:03 p.m. ET/7:03 p.m. CT at Minute Maid Park) with a chance to take a dominant series lead.
Houston will take its 12-game ALDS home streak to the line behind lefty Framber Valdez, who was 3-0 with a 1.44 ERA and 0.88 WHIP in four starts last year in the postseason, including two wins over Phillies in the League World Series.
“I’m just going to go out there and hit, throw pitches and throw in the zone,” Valdez said.
López led the Blue Jays to one earned run and five hits in 5 2/3 innings during the Twins’ 3-1 victory Tuesday in Game 1 of the AL Wild Card Series. Minnesota will try to steal Game 2 on the road and return home with a chance to end the series at Target Field.
“I haven’t encountered this [the Astros] since last year,” López said. “Of course, myself and the catching and throwing coach will try to come up with the best plan for Game 2, which will be tomorrow, regardless of a possible Game 5.
“If we have to present all the options tomorrow, that’s what we will do. Even if it’s from the first pitch, from the first inning, we’re going to try to put the team in the best position possible to win the game.
When is the match and how can I watch it?
The first whistle will take place on Sunday at 20:03 ET/7:03 CT and will be broadcast on American television on the FS1 platform.
All series are available in the US on MLB.TV after authentication with a participating pay-TV provider. Games are available live worldwide (except Canada). Full game archives will be available approximately 90 minutes after the game ends.
Who are the starting pitchers?
The Twins have won nine of López’s last 12 starts dating back to early August, and will need the ace at his best to avoid returning to Minneapolis with a massive 0-2 series deficit. López ranks among the best in baseball in most basic metrics despite his season ERA of 3.66. While Minnesota looks for any response to Yordan Alvarez’s monster shot in Game 1, López will have to watch his fastball, which has produced a .341 average and a .545 left-handed slugging percentage this season.
Astros: Framber Valdez
Valdez has been a mainstay for the Astros for four years, going 45-26 with a 3.19 ERA in 95 games (94 starts). In 13 career postseason appearances (12 starts), the lefty has an ERA of 3.41 (26 ER/68 2/3 IP). He is one of the best ground ball pitchers in the game, and among AL starters in 2023, he was second in ground ball percentage (55.0), third in ground balls thrown (198) and third in opponents’ batting average ( 0.228). ). Since tracking of ground ball percentage began in 1987, Valdez’s career ground ball percentage is the fifth-highest recorded by a starting pitcher.
What are the starting lineups?
Twins: It will be in Minnesota’s best interest to eliminate Valdez from the game as quickly as possible, however, as the Twins’ multi-platoon lineup is noticeably inferior on paper and in practice against left-handed pitching, with mainstays Edouard Julien, Alex Kirilloff and Matt Wallner trades until the right-handed brigade emerges from the Astros bullpen.
Astro: Michael Brantley returns to the lineup for Game 2, and veteran catcher Martín Maldonado will step behind the plate to catch Valdez.
How will the bullpens stack up after the starter?
Twins: There’s plenty of leverage easing to be expected on Sunday, and with a scheduled break on Monday, Minnesota will likely do everything in its power to avoid falling into an 0-2 series deficit. The Twins don’t have much of a choice in the matter, considering two of their star players – Kenta Maeda and Chris Paddack – both pitched in Saturday’s loss.
Expect Louie Varland to give the Twins two or three innings if needed, but otherwise expect everyone but Maeda and Paddack to be used freely to finish games, including Jhoan Duran if needed.
Astro: The only reliever who may be unavailable is the inscrutable Bryan Abreu, who was forced to go 1 1/3 innings, throwing 29 pitches in the first game. Still, with an off day on Monday, Houston could probably get a few hitters off him. The bullpen is in good shape as Phil Maton, Ryne Stanek and Rafael Montero have not pitched since the end of the regular season, and Hector Neris and Ryan Pressly are also still available despite being added in the first game.
The Astros have three long relief options in starters: Hunter Brown, José Urquidy and J.P. France.
Twins: Royce Lewis hasn’t jumped well throughout the AL Wild Card series due to a torn left hamstring he suffered two weeks before the playoffs started and remains limited on the base paths.
Astro: Relief pitcher Kendall Graveman is dealing with right shoulder discomfort and is not on the ALDS roster.
Twins: Lewis is already building his postseason legacy, and we’re only three games in. The rookie hit a solo homer in the fourth as the Twins took seventh in the first, turning the loss into a hard blow. Lewis is the second player and first rookie in AL/NL history to hit three home runs in the first three postseason games of his career, with only former Rangers outfielder Juan Gonzalez hitting more in that span (four in 1996).
Jorge Polanco is hitting .333 (4-for-12) with one home run and three RBIs in his first four postseason games. The homer in Game 1 of the ALDS was his second career postseason home run and first since Game 1 of the 2019 ALDS at Yankee Stadium.
Astro: Alvarez finished the regular season as the last AL Player of the Month, and now he returns to his familiar role as a postseason hero. In Game 1 of the ALDS, Alvarez hit two shots to a Statcast-predicted 763 feet, the second of which gave the Astros some breathing room when the score was too close for comfort. Houston Slugger reached base three times in a 6-4 win.
On Saturday, Pressly made his 12th career postseason save. He is 12-for-12 save opportunities in the postseason and has not allowed a run in his last 16 postseason appearances (17 2/3 IP), dating back to Game 1 of the 2021 ALCS against the Red Sox.
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