The Minnesota Twins are heading to the American League Championship Series for the first time since 2002 after defeating the Houston Astros 4-3 in a nail-biting Game 3 of the ALDS on Tuesday at Target Field.
Gray outduels Javier in pitchers’ duel
The Twins sent their ace Sonny Gray to the mound, hoping to clinch the series on their home turf. Gray delivered a stellar performance, tossing six scoreless innings and allowing only four hits and one walk while striking out eight. He retired the first 11 batters he faced and kept the Astros’ potent lineup in check.
The Astros countered with Cristian Javier, who had a shaky second half of the season but bounced back with a solid outing in Game 3. Javier matched Gray with six shutout frames, giving up five hits and two walks while fanning seven. He escaped a bases-loaded jam in the fourth inning and stranded two runners in scoring position in the sixth.
Twins break through in seventh inning
The game remained scoreless until the bottom of the seventh, when the Twins finally broke through against the Astros’ bullpen. After Javier exited, reliever Blake Taylor walked Max Kepler to lead off the inning. Taylor then gave up a single to Jorge Polanco, putting runners on first and third with no outs.
The Astros brought in Ryan Pressly, who got Josh Donaldson to pop out for the first out. But Nelson Cruz came through with a clutch RBI single to right field, scoring Kepler and giving the Twins a 1-0 lead. Miguel Sano followed with a sacrifice fly to center field, plating Polanco and making it 2-0.
Astros rally in eighth inning
The Twins handed the ball to their closer Taylor Rogers in the eighth inning, hoping to preserve the two-run lead. But Rogers ran into trouble right away, as he walked Carlos Correa and Yordan Alvarez to start the inning. After striking out Kyle Tucker, Rogers gave up a single to Yuli Gurriel, loading the bases with one out.
The Twins then turned to Tyler Duffey, who got pinch-hitter Aledmys Diaz to ground into a force out at second base, allowing Correa to score and cutting the deficit to 2-1. Duffey then walked Myles Straw, forcing in another run and tying the game at 2-2. Duffey managed to strike out Jose Altuve to end the inning and limit the damage.
Twins regain lead in bottom of eighth
The Twins did not let the Astros’ comeback dampen their spirits, as they quickly regained the lead in the bottom of the eighth. Pressly stayed on for another inning, but he was greeted by a leadoff double by Mitch Garver. After striking out Byron Buxton, Pressly intentionally walked Kepler to set up a double play.
But Polanco foiled that plan with a bloop single to left field, scoring Garver and putting the Twins ahead 3-2. Donaldson then hit a grounder to third base, where Diaz made a throwing error that allowed Kepler to score and Polanco to reach third. The Twins had a 4-2 lead and were three outs away from advancing.
Astros make it interesting in ninth inning
The Twins entrusted Alex Colome with the ninth inning, hoping he could close out the game and the series. Colome got Michael Brantley to ground out for the first out, but then gave up a solo home run to Alex Bregman that made it 4-3. Colome then walked Correa, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate.
But Colome settled down and got Alvarez to fly out to left field for the second out. He then struck out Tucker on three pitches, sealing the win for the Twins and setting off a wild celebration at Target Field.
The Twins will face the winner of the ALDS between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALCS, which will begin on Saturday at Yankee Stadium or Tropicana Field. The Astros will head home after a disappointing end to their season, as they failed to defend their World Series title.