Minnesota Twins Drop Game 3 Of ALCS, Astros Up 2-1
MINNEAPOLIS -- Another stingy October outing from Cristian Javier put the Houston Astros one win away from another American League Championship Series.
In his first postseason start since a combined World Series no-hitter last year, Javier limited the Minnesota Twins to one hit over five scoreless innings, and the Astros whacked four home runs in a 9-1 victory at Target Field on Tuesday. Houston grabbed a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five division series and can clinch its seventh consecutive ALCS appearance with a win Wednesday.
Javier leaned heavily on his slider -- normally difficult to square, positively dastardly with the elements impairing hitters' vision -- and generated 11 swings and misses with the pitch. After a first-inning double by Max Kepler, the 26-year-old Javier navigated the dangerous Twins lineup without allowing further damage. He walked five and struck out nine as he wriggled out of jams in the first, third and fifth innings, the latter of which he punctuated with back-to-back strikeouts of Kepler and Twins cleanup hitter Royce Lewis.
Astros manager Dusty Baker contemplated yanking Javier, particularly after he walked the bases loaded in the fifth, but gave him the benefit of the doubt.
"We had to make a decision on whether to leave him in there or go to somebody else. He came through," Baker said. "He can smell a victory -- or he can smell when I'm about to take him out."
The team's victory never was in question. First baseman Jose Abreu, in his first season with the Astros, hammered a three-run home run in the first inning off Twins starter Sonny Gray and capped the scoring with a two-run shot in the ninth. In between, the Astros got homers from Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez, who now has four in the series.
Minnesota, whose home run-happy offense helped secure an AL Central title, registered a pair of hits off reliever Hunter Brown to score its only run in the sixth. Bryan Abreu, Phil Maton and Rafael Montero held the Twins hitless over the final three innings and combined for five strikeouts.
The Twins plan to start Joe Ryan in Game 4, where he'll be opposed by Houston's Jose Urquidy.
Game 4 begins with the Twins pregame at 5:00 PM. The first pitch is at 6:07 PM on ESPN 102.3/AM 1000 KSOO.
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