With few expectations following a generally rough season that just happened to coincide with the weirdest year in MLB history, the Astros waltzed into Minnesota and swept the team with the best home record in baseball. It's surprising and then some because a) the Astros weren't favored and b) they also happen to be one of the worst road teams in baseball.
Still, with a combination of youthful arms and veterans at the plate, the 'Stros are headed back to the American League Division Series set to start on Monday.
The reliable Twins were mistake prone.
Walks, errors, miscues on the base paths, these are not the sorts of things people who watch baseball are used to from the steady Twins. Yet, in this series, they were the team with the gaffes and the Astros made them pay. Whether it was an error in the ninth inning of Game 1 that should have ended the Astros rally or a base running mistake in the eighth of Game 2 that brought the inning to a close, the Twins shot themselves in the foot too many times and the Astros capitalized.
The short series leaves the Astros rotation ready for the ALDS.
Had this gone to a winner-take-all Game 3, Lance McCullers, Jr., the Astros best pitcher the last few weeks, would have taken the mound. Instead, he'll likely be the Game 1 starter for the ALDS. Just as important, the bullpen was not overworked and will have four days off to recover from the work they put in, particularly guys like Framber Valdez and Christian Javier.
Playoff Astros came to play.
Consistently over the past five years, the Astros have been outstanding in the postseason, particularly their ability to complement one another (when the bats are down, the pitching is on fire and vice versa). This was yet another series where they did what they had to do to win and were the better team in the clutch. We may not have expected it this season, but it happened, and if they continue, don't count them out of a much deeper run than anyone thought possible a few weeks ago.
The Astros future may be bright after all.
There has been plenty of fingernail biting over the prospects of an Astros minus some of their best and brightest stars. The possible departures of George Springer, Justin Verlander and Michael Brantley have loomed large over a tough season. But Kyle Tucker has emerged this season as an everyday outfielder and, more importantly, the Astros young pitching staff appears poised to become a force for years to come. Considering all the youth in the rotation and the bullpen — Valdez, Javier, Jose Urquidy — this year seemed like a lost cause, but those youngsters kept the Astros in the hunt for the postseason and they were front and center in the Wild Card series.
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