For years, MLB fans watched Carlos Correa propel the Astros in big spots during the postseason, but on Sunday, he was doing it against his former team to even up the series as it heads back to Minnesota. We’ll preview tonight’s game before going over my play for the first five innings.
It had been a while since the Twins faithful had something to cheer about in the postseason, but now their team has the chance to take a 2-1 series lead at home. The man leading the charge for Minnesota on the mound tonight will be right-hander Sonny Gray. After a stellar regular season, the veteran continued his success into the first round of the postseason by throwing five shutout innings with six strikeouts to pick up a win over the Blue Jays.
After that outing, Gray is pitching to a 2.39 ERA in five career postseason starts, one coming against the Astros in 2017, when he allowed one earned run over five innings. The Astros lineup he’ll be facing tonight will look a bit different and will be coming off a 6-2 loss on Sunday, where they picked up seven hits and left 13 runners on base.
Yordan Alvarez drove in Houston’s only two runs for the game with a two-run home run off Brock Stewart in the 8th, after Pablo Lopez kept them off the board for the first seven innings. It didn’t help that Astros starter Framber Valdez dug his team an early deficit by allowing five earned runs in 4.1 innings. As they look to get back on track today, Houston will start another arm who is familiar with the postseason, in Christian Javier.
The big right-hander pitched to a CY-Young caliber level last season but has been unable to recreate that success this year, as he pitched to a 4.56 ERA in 162 innings. Javier allowed a career-high 25 home runs this season, and over his last ten starts, he averaged just 4.2 innings an outing. Those are not the numbers you want when facing a Twins lineup that registered a 44% hard-hit percentage in their game two win.
As they return to their home ballpark, the Twins are currently listed at (-138) on the F5 moneyline, and I’ll be backing them for my play. Minnesota’s lineup has multiple guys that have the potential to take Javier deep since he’s struggled to keep the ball in the yard. With their home crowd behind them and an advantage on the mound, I think the Twins build an early lead.
With how he struggled in the regular season, getting the start on the road today is less than ideal for Javier since that is where most of his struggles occurred. In 94 road innings, the right-hander pitched to a 5.17 ERA, 5.25 FIP, and 5.38 xFIP. If you’re looking for a more recent sample size, Javier pitched to a 5.02 FIP and 5.39 xFIP in the second half of the season, partly because he is in the 25th percentile in barrel percentage and 1st percentile in groundball percentage.
Meanwhile, Sonny Gray enters this matchup in the 77th percentile in groundball percentage and 68th percentile in barrel percentage while pitching to a 2.60 FIP and 3.32 xFIP in 97.2 home innings. With his offense swinging it like they have been, I think they can give Gray a nice lead to work with as well.
Minnesota Twins F5 (-138)