Twins or Blue Jays? Here's who Astros fans should be rooting for

October 3rd, 2023

HOUSTON -- A furious sprint to the finish, capped by a sweep of the postseason-bound D-backs over the weekend at Arizona, allowed the Astros to take a deep breath. Instead of boarding a postgame flight Sunday to Florida for the AL Wild Card Series, the Astros won the American League West and flew home to await their next opponent.

Houston is gearing up for Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Saturday against either the Blue Jays or the Twins, who play host for the best-of-three Wild Card Series. Game 1 is Tuesday afternoon at Target Field in Minneapolis.

So, who should Astros fans be rooting for? Is it “Bring on the Jays!” or “We want the Twins!” in Houston?

Let’s take a closer look:

Blue Jays

89-73, third place in the AL East

AL seed: Sixth seed (third Wild Card team)

Vs. Astros: The Astros went 3-4 against the Blue Jays, winning two of three in Houston in April and losing three of four in Toronto in June. Toronto outscored Houston, 35-22, but the Blue Jays haven’t faced the Astros with a healthy or or since they reacquired ace .

The matchup: The Astros are what the Blue Jays are supposed to be, a star-studded team built for long postseason runs. Toronto has generally underperformed in the playoffs the past few years, but it would be a very dangerous ALDS matchup for the Astros. , and didn’t play up to expectations this year, but they remain impact bats the Astros would have to work through. Chapman, and hit two homers against Houston this year.

Blue Jays starters (two earned runs in 14 1/3 innings) and (four earned runs in 13 innings) each had two strong starts against the Astros in 2023, but Houston roughed up -- eight earned runs in 11 2/3 innings, though he struck out 18 -- in two starts.

(9-for-26) and (9-for-26) both hit well against Jays pitching this year, with (7-for-26), (6-for-25) and (4-for-21) held more in check. Houston’s best start against the Jays this year came from , who threw seven scoreless innings before he was lost for the season with Tommy John surgery. (five innings, one earned run) and (five innings, three earned runs) both faced Toronto only once.

Underlying storyline: Springer is one of the most popular players in Astros history, winning the 2017 World Series MVP for Houston. He’s hit 19 career playoff homers -- all with the Astros.


87-75, AL Central champions

AL seed: Third seed (Worst record among AL division winners)

Vs. Astros: The Astros went 2-4 against Minnesota, getting outscored, 29-25. Houston didn’t have Verlander when it played the Twins, and Altuve and Brantley were injured when the teams met in early April.

The matchup: These are two teams with much different postseason résumés. The Twins entered the Wild Card Series having lost 18 consecutive playoff games, and the Astros have won 56 playoff games since 2015. Still, the Twins have terrific starting pitching and should be able to match up with Verlander and Valdez, depending on how the Wild Card Series plays out.

The Astros didn’t face Twins ace this year, but faced them twice and allowed four earned runs and struck out 16 in 13 innings. The pitchers who would start the first three games of the series for Houston -- Verlander, Valdez and Javier -- haven’t faced the Twins this year, which clouds the crystal ball some. Bregman (7-for-23) and Dubón (6-for-15) swung the bat well against the Twins, but was 4-for-20, Alvarez was 3-for-20, Tucker was 2-for-21 and Altuve was 1-for-7.

The Twins have power up and down their lineup, but they strike out a ton. Astros pitchers ranked fourth in the AL in strikeouts, so there are some matchups they could exploit. It’s a mostly right-handed lineup, so Houston having a right-handed pitching staff plays into its favor. Also, will late-season injuries to , and be an issue in October?

Underlying storyline: Like Springer, Correa was a cornerstone player on the Astros championship team in 2017 and had more than his share of big moments in the postseason for Houston.

The verdict? 
The Astros’ best hope is the Toronto-Minnesota series goes three games and each team goes deep into its bullpen, but on paper the Twins are probably the better matchup for Houston because of the swing-and-miss in their lineup and the Astros’ ability to match up with their starting pitchers. Plus, lingering injuries to key Twins players could be an issue. The Astros would be favored to beat either team in the ALDS, though probably not by much. A series against either team should be extremely competitive.