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Astros complete playoff sweep as Twins' postseason embarrassments continue

Luis Arraez, Martin Maldonado
Minnesota Twins’ Luis Arraez, left, is tagged out by Houston Astros catcher Martin Maldonado as he attempted to score on a Marwin Gonzalez single in the fifth inning of Game 2 of an American League wild-card baseball series, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020, in Minneapolis. Home plate umpire Manny Gonzalez watches to make the call. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins got the most favorable matchup possible for the first round of MLB’s expanded playoffs, facing the below-.500 Houston Astros. Combine this with the series being at Target Field — where the Twins were dominant in the 60-game pandemic-shortened season — and it seemed to be only a matter of time before Minnesota took the best-of-three series.
Only one problem. These were playoff games and the Twins simply don’t win in the postseason. They proved it again Wednesday afternoon by losing 3-1 to the Astros and being swept in two games. That extended the Twins’ playoff losing streak to 18 games. That is a record for the major sports in North America (NFL, NHL, NBA and MLB) by two. The Twins also had two runs in the two games as their bats went silent.
What happened in Game 2? Glad you asked.

  • The Twins loaded the bases for the second consecutive game in the first inning but were unable to score. Max Kepler and Miguel Sano walked, sandwiched around Eddie Rosario reaching on a throwing error by second baseman Jose Altuve. That brought up right fielder Alex Kirilloff, making his major league debut. Kirilloff flew to center on an 0-2 pitch to end the inning.
  • Kirilloff, one of the Twins’ top prospects, did get his first big-league hit, and the Twins’ first hit of the game off Astros starter Jose Urquidy, when he ripped a two-out single to right in the fourth inning. Kirilloff also made a nice sliding catch of Josh Reddick’s fly ball in the fifth inning in right-center field.
  • Twins starter Jose Berrios retired the first 11 batters he faced before Michael Brantley and Alex Bregman walked to put runners on first and second in the fourth. Kyle Tucker then hit a ball to the shortstop position, but with Jorge Polanco positioned toward second base in a shift, the ball went through and scored Brantley to give the Astros a 1-0 lead. Berrios got out of the inning by getting Yuli Gurriel to ground to third to leave runners on first and third. Berrios threw 29 pitches in the first three innings but 32 alone in the fourth.
  • The Twins tied the score in the fifth as Marwin Gonzalez led off with a single to right field. Ryan Jeffers was called out on strikes and Urquidy was pulled for lefthanded reliever Brooks Raley. Luis Arraez walked to put runners on first and second and after Kepler was called out on strikes, Nelson Cruz smashed a double to left that scored Gonzalez from second to tie the score at 1-1. Arraez was waved home by third base coach Tony Diaz. Tucker’s relay was taken by shortstop Carlos Correa. Correa’s throw home to Martin Maldonado was off the mark, but the catcher caught the ball slightly toward the first base side of the plate and lunged back in time to tag out Arraez to end the inning.
  • Berrios was removed after throwing only 75 pitches through five innings, in large part because manager Rocco Baldelli did not want the starter to face the Astros for a third time. The move left Baldelli open to some major second-guessing, considering Berrios had given up one run, two hits, two walks and struck out four and definitely had at least another inning left in his arm. Cody Stashak replaced Berrios and retired the side in order in the sixth.
  • Correa gave the Astros a 2-1 lead in the seventh, hitting a 1-0 pitch from Stashak into the right field seats on an 82-mile-per-hour slider with two outs.
  • As good as Berrios was on the mound early in the game, Jeffers was just as good behind the plate. The Twins catcher got strikeouts in the third and fourth innings by bringing pitches on Reddick and George Springer back into the zone and fooling plate umpire Manny Gonzalez into calling both strike three. Springer was especially upset with the call on him but he wasn’t ejected.
  • Eddie Rosario was ejected by Gonzalez in the sixth inning after he struck out swinging and then said a few magic words. Rosario was upset by Gonzalez’s strike two call during his at-bat. Baldelli also had some words for Gonzalez but he was not ejected.
  • The Twins got back-to-back outs thanks to replay reviews in the eighth inning. Gonzalez made a nice defensive play on Springer’s shot to third but Springer was called safe by first base umpire Tim Timmons. The call was overturned on review. Altuve, the next hitter, grounded up the middle and Arraez’s throw was judged to be a second too late by Timmons. The replay showed otherwise and Altuve was called out.
  • Cruz walked with one out in the eighth inning and was pinch run for by Byron Buxton, who did not start in Game 2 because he was “not 100 percent,” according to Baldelli. Jake Cave, who replaced Rosario, then hit for the first time in the game against righthander Cristian Javier. Cave struck out swinging and Buxton did not run on the 3-2 pitch. With Miguel Sano at the plate, Buxton then got picked off by Javier. It went down as a caught stealing because Buxton broke for second before retreating toward first.
  • The Astros added to their lead in the ninth as Tucker’s single to right scored Brantley against Taylor Rogers to make it 3-1. Rogers gave up two singles and a walk before being lifted for Tyler Duffey.