A good friend of the blog, Becky checked in with a cogent comment yesterday after the Astros eliminated the Minnesota Twins in a two-game sweep.
“Thought Carlos Correa really took it to the ESPN announcers today. He let them know no one appreciated their constant slams about this club…..and I’m glad he did. There was nothing but silence from those three when Correa took the headphones off. Tucker has grown into himself this year, we see how much just a little seeing-eye single can make a big difference in a game like today. Good kid.
What more can you say about those “baby” pitchers! Dusty pulled off some pretty cool magic the last two days….”
Watching Correa launch his seventh-inning bomb in the second game to center to break a 1-1 tie was not as dramatic as his extra-inning walk-off in Game 2 of the 2019 ALCS or his extra-inning bomb in Game 2 of the 2017 World Series, but it brought back a lot of those feelings.
The Astro fans have been a bit spoiled by their Big 4 of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman and George Springer as far as playoff production goes. The following shows how each has done in their playoff games and how that would project to a full season of 162 games. A few famous Astros (Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell and Lance Berkman) are thrown in here for comparison.
|Playoff Games||Runs Scored||HRs||RBIs||BA||OPS|
|Correa – 162 gm projection||162 (proj)||69||37||106||.255||.810|
|Springer – 162 gm projection||162 (proj)||112||47||90||.264||.895|
|Altuve – 162 gm projection||162 (proj)||118||41||93||.280||.850|
|Alex Bregman||46 gm||32||10||27||.228||.812|
|Bregman – 162 gm projection||162 (proj)||113||35||95||.228||.812|
|Biggio – 162 gm projection||162 (proj)||93||8||45||.234||.618|
|Bagwell – 162 gm projection||162 (proj)||54||10||64||.226||.685|
|Lance Berkman||29 (as Astro)||18||6||26||.321||.993|
|Berkman -162 gm projection||162 (proj)||101||34||145||.321||.993|
What this tells us is that Lance Berkman was the gold standard for playoff performance for this team, but that Altuve, Springer, Bregman and Correa have been very good. The Biggio and Bagwell playoff struggles have been well documented and are shown here for comparison.
So what was the basis of the Astros win over the favored Minnesota Twins? It was a beautiful combination of the old and the young.
Contributions came from the foursome above, plus other veterans…
- Springer only had one hit, but it was huge. The Astros were trailing 1-0 in the seventh inning of the first game and were looking like they were going to lose by that margin when George pounded a single up the middle with two outs to knock in the tying run. In a lesser sense, he hit the sure thing grounder for a third out in the 9th inning, that Jorge Polanco threw behind the second baseman. This led to the three runs that put the game away – one of which he scored.
- Altuve had no hits, but his patience allowed him to draw two walks in the first game, the second of which drove in the go-ahead run right after that Polanco error.
- Correa had one hit and two walks in the first game and scored one of the three runs in the ninth inning. In the second game, he had two hits and had the biggest hit as he launched the tie-breaking home run in the 7th inning 430 feet into the deep center field stands.
- In the two games, Alex Bregman had two walks and one single. Both his walk and his single in the second game moved Michael Brantley into scoring position from which he did score both times. But there was no bigger defensive play than his beautiful, charging, barehanded toss out of the Twins’ Miguel Sano with the bases loaded in the first inning of the first game.
- Michael Brantley continued to be the almost invisible hero of the offense as he played a big part in both games. In the first game, he had a double in the first inning, but it was his laser beam single in the 9th inning that brought in 2 runs and put the game away. His two walks in the second game became both the first and third runs of a 3-1 win.
- Like George Springer, Yuli Gurriel only had one hit in the two games, but it was also huge. He led off the 9th inning of a 1-1 tie in the first game and came home with the go-ahead run.
- He did not go deep into the first game. He gave the fans a few more thrills than they wanted. But Zack Greinke did what he has done many times in holding the Twins to 1 run in 4 innings. He gave the Astros a chance to stay in the game and eventually win.
- Martin Maldonado had a hit of no consequences and struck out 5 times in the two games. But he had a critical tag play to hold the tie in the 5th inning of the second game on the same play where the Twins tied the game. But more importantly, he came back from the twisted knee in the last series of the year to do a great job of handling the pitching staff, especially the “baby” pitchers.
- The last time we saw Ryan Pressly, he was blowing a save against the Texas Rangers that could have clinched the playoff spot for the Astros. He shook that off and came in to clinch the series and slam the door on the Twins in the second game of the Wild Card Series.
- Josh Reddick had some struggles at the plate and one poor play in the field in the first game, but he did hit a line single and scored on Springer’s game-tying hit in the first game. In the second game, he was hitless but made some fine plays in the field.
- Brooks Raley did give up the game-tying double to Nelson Cruz in relief, but he was put in a tough spot in having to face and pitch to the future Hall of Famer Cruz.
- And the oldest veterans on the team, manager Dusty Baker and pitching coach Brent Strom did a masterful job with the pitching staff, and the first bullet below was the biggest demonstration of that.
Youth Shall Be Served
Not as many “yutes” (as Joe Pesci called them) played like veterans, but the four that did were tremendously effective.
- The announcers were questioning Baker taking Greinke out after only four innings and 79 pitches and replacing him with Framber Valdez. Dan P was questioning the move and locking away all sharp objects when Framber walked the first two guys in the 5th inning. Framber after a visit from Strom settled down, got out of the jam and over his five innings of scoreless relief gave up 2 hits and no more walks. The two hits came in the 9th inning, and Baker/Strom showed extreme confidence in allowing him to finish the game.
- Jose Urquidy threw a solid 4-1/3 innings to start the second game with his only run-scoring after he left the game. Urquidy has been a cool cucumber in the postseason for the Astros, sporting a 1.26 ERA in his 14.1 innings over the last two seasons.
- 23-year-old Cristian Javier was terrific in relief of Urquidy in game two as he threw three hitless innings to carry the team to the brink of the next round.
- The “investment” that the team made in not trading Kyle Tucker has come back with interest in this unusual 2020 season. It continued in this series as Tucker tied with Brantley with 3 hits in the two games. In the second game, he drove in the first and third runs with clutch singles in the fourth and ninth innings.
- In the end, this series required a team effort from the young, the old, the offense, the pitching and the defense. That formula will need to be followed again as the team heads to the ALDS.