Baker makes managerial history with Astros

September 26th, 2020

Astros players and coaches were already back at their hotel, and some were presumably asleep, when the club officially clinched a postseason berth late Friday. After blowing leads in the ninth and 10th innings in a 5-4 loss to the Rangers earlier in the night, the Astros clinched second place in the American League West when the Dodgers beat the Angels, 9-5.

Astros manager Dusty Baker and shortstop sported new 2020 postseason caps while speaking with reporters remotely from Arlington on Saturday. Even though the Astros are sitting at .500 (29-29) with two games remaining and didn’t win the division for the first time since 2016, they aren’t taking their fourth consecutive postseason berth for granted.

“You’ve got to appreciate every moment you get to make the postseason,” Correa said. “It’s very special every single year to make it. It’s been a roller coaster-type season for us, with ups and downs, a lot of injuries here and there. We’ve been able to accomplish our first goal of getting to the playoffs, and now we’ve got to go out there and be able to perform in order for us to win another World Series.”

Astros outfielder was on the phone with his wife late Friday night when she gave him the news.

“She asked if I wanted some good news and I said, ‘Yeah, sure,’” he said. “She told me the Dodgers had won, so that’s how I found out.”

Baker, the first manager in history to take five teams to the playoffs, was in bed in his Dallas-area hotel when he got calls from his son, Darren, and bench coach, Joe Espada, to give him the news.

“This is why I came here,” Baker said. “This is what I expected from the team, and this is what I expected from myself. It wasn’t easy, I’m telling you. We had a bunch of obstacles, including the coronavirus, and then injuries and all kind of things. It’s very gratifying, and I’m very grateful and thankful to be here.”

Baker sets a record
With the Astros returning to the playoffs for the fourth year in a row, Baker is the first manager in Major League history to guide five different teams into the postseason. The 71-year-old was hired in January to replace AJ Hinch, and early in the season he had his option for 2021 picked up by the Astros.

“I don’t think about it much,” Baker said. “Two of the teams I took to the playoffs, I got let go right after we went to a couple of playoffs. To me, I’m not looking at the history that I’ve created. I’m looking at the history of today and going forward.”

Baker took the Giants to the playoffs in 1997, 2000 and ’02, when he won the National League pennant and made his only trip to the World Series. Baker led the Cubs to the playoffs in ’03, the Reds in ’10, ’12-13 and the Nationals in ’16-17.

Under Baker, his teams have a 23-32 record in the postseason and have advanced only twice (’02 with the Giants and ’03 with the Cubs, who lost in the NL Chamionship Series). Since ‘03, Baker’s teams have lost 10 consecutive postseason games in which they had a chance to advance.

Playoff rotation taking shape
By starting right-hander on Saturday against the Rangers, Baker said that lines him up to start a possible Game 3 of the Wild Card Series, which would be Thursday, if needed. The Astros are the No. 6 seed entering the playoffs, and they will play a best-of-three at the No. 3 seed, which was the Twins (through Friday’s game).

It appears veteran right-hander will start Game 1 on Tuesday, but Baker wasn’t committed to a Game 2 starting pitcher for Wednesday. Right-hander , who pitched on Friday, would be on normal rest for a start on Wednesday. The other candidate to start is lefty , who last started Tuesday in Seattle.

Despite being the Astros' most consistent starting pitcher this year, Valdez is seen as a candidate to pitch out of the bullpen in the Wild Card Series. He has more experience in relief than the other starters and defies splits, getting lefties and right-handers out successfully, which would be a luxury in relief. The team’s fifth starter, , will be in the bullpen for the Wild Card Series.