It will be an all-Texas American League Championship Series after all.
That became the case Wednesday night when the Astros defeated the Minnesota Twins, 3-2, in Game 4 of their American League Division Series at Target Field. Now awaiting the Astros in Game 1 of the ALCS on Sunday at Minute Maid Park are their in-state rival Texas Rangers, who swept their wild-card and ALDS rounds.
This will mark the first time the fierce rivalry between the Astros and Rangers will play out in the postseason.
“They know us, and we know them,” said Astros manager Dusty Baker, who has now led the club to its third straight ALCS. “I know (Rangers manager Bruce Bochy) and he knows me and I know (Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux). It’s going to be a heck of a series.”
The defending World Series champion Astros are returning to the ALCS for the seventh straight year. This ascend to the ALCS may be the most impressive considering that a week before the playoffs, there was concern the Astros might not even make the postseason after a rough September.
But the Astros turned it around and here they are again, poised to repeat as the world champions.
“All of the ups and downs through the season and these guys cut through the grind and it’s a beautiful feeling to be going back to the ALCS for the seventh time in a row. That’s awesome,” said Astros first-year general manager Dana Brown. “These guys know how to step it up.”
That they did Wednesday night with 36-year-olds Jose Abreu and Michael Brantley accounting for all of the scoring with both coming up with homers. Those runs were supported by a strong showing on the mound where starter Jose Urquidy and relievers Hector Neris, Bryan Abreu and Ryan Pressly put the brakes on the Twins lineup.
After traveling to Minnesota with the series tied 1-1, the Astros secured the series on the road with strong pitching and timely hitting in Games 3 and 4.
“It’s good times, without a doubt,” Brown said. “There is nothing better than winning. And when you continually go deep into the postseason, that’s for the fan base, that’s for ownership’s commitment and it’s a beautiful thing.”