AL Wild-Card Quick Hits: Astros Look to Lift Target Field Cloud That Hangs Over Them

Tracy Ringolsby

A quick look at the four American League post-season matchups from the folks at Stats, Inc.: 

Houston Astros at Minnesota Twins

Ø The Twins took four of seven meetings from the Astros in last season’s matchup. Since taking four in a row in May 2017 and April 2018, the Astros have won just one of six against the Twins at Target Field.

Ø Houston finished the regular season at 29-31 for its first losing season since 2014 (70-92) and snapping a streak of three straight division titles dating back to 2017. The Astros (and 2020 Brewers) are the second team with a losing record to qualify for the postseason, along with the 1981 Royals, who finished the season 50-53 but won the second-half AL West title at 30-23.

Ø Minnesota claimed its second straight division title for the first time since 2009 & 2010 but is still seeking its first playoff win since the 2004 ALDS and its first playoff series win since the 2002 ALDS. The Twins’ 15 seasons since their last playoff game victory is the third-longest active drought in MLB, behind the Mariners (19 seasons, including 2020) and the Marlins (16 seasons entering 2020 playoffs).

Ø Carlos Correa has a hit in 12 of his 13 career games at Target Field and is slashing .426/.450/.815 at the venue, and his 1.265 OPS ranks second to David Ortiz (1.292) among players with at least 50 career plate appearances at the park. Of the 20 players with an OPS of 1.000 or higher, three are current Astros – Correa is joined by George Springer (8th at 1.135) and Alex Bregman (13th at 1.067)

Ø Kenta Maeda will start Game 1 for the Twins coming off a season in which he posted an MLB-best 0.75 WHIP. That is the second lowest in AL history (Pedro Martinez, 2000 Red Sox) and fourth lowest in MLB history, behind only Ed Cushman (0.36) and Lady Baldwin (0.47) of the 1884 Union Association’s Milwaukee Cream Cities – who only played 12 games before folding.

Ø Nelson Cruz has 25 career home runs against the Astros, third most among active players behind only Albert Pujols (60) and Ryan Braun (28). However, Cruz is seeking his first home run against Houston since August 22, 2018.

Chicago White Sox at Oakland Athletics

Ø The Athletics have won 15 of the 19 meetings with the White Sox since 2017, including each of the last eight in Oakland. Chicago has been held to two runs or fewer in five of their last six meetings in Oakland.

Ø The White Sox finished the year at 35-25, their first winning season since 2012 (85-77) and their first playoff berth since 2008. The White Sox led the American League with 96 home runs for the fifth time in franchise history and the first time since 2008.

Ø Oakland clinched its first division title since 2013 and its third straight playoff berth. The A’s made the playoffs despite hitting just .225 this season, the lowest batting average by an American League playoff team – the previous record was .230 held by the 1906 Chicago White Sox.

Ø Jose Abreu led the majors with 60 RBI this season, the most by any player through 60 team games since Miguel Cabrera had 67 in 2013. It’s the third most in White Sox history through 60 team games since RBI became official in 1920, behind Frank Thomas (66 RBI in 1996) and Zeke Bonura (64 RBI in 1937).

Ø Matt Olson is slugging .519 in 32 home games this season compared to a .324 slugging percentage on the road. His nine home runs at home are tied for third most in the AL (Luke Voit, NYY – 16; Mike Trout, LAA – 10) and his 29 RBI at home rank second (Luke Voit, NYY - 37).

Ø The White Sox have not won a playoff series since 2005 – their 14-season drought is the third longest in the American League. The A’s have not won a playoff series since 2006 – their 13-season drought is the fourth longest in the AL. Only the Mariners (18) and Twins (17) have longer active streaks among AL teams.

Toronto Blue Jays at Tampa Bay Rays

Ø  Toronto's Charlie Montoyo is the first manager in MLB history to lose 90+ games in his first season as a manager and make the playoffs in his second season.

Ø Lourdes Gurriel Jr. finished the month of September with a .368 batting average, fourth best in franchise history for a single September (minimum 75 PA) behind Aaron Hill (.406 in 2007), Tony Fernandez (.388 in 1998) and Darrin Fletcher (.370 in 2000).

Ø The Rays’ .667 winning percentage this season was tied for the fifth best by any AL team in the divisional era (since 1969), behind the 2001 Mariners (.716), 1998 Yankees (.704), 1995 Indians (.694) and 1969 Orioles (.673).

Ø Randy Arozarena averaged a home run every 9.14 at-bats this season, the third-best rate by a rookie in MLB history (minimum 75 PA) behind Oakland’s Matt Olson in 2017 (7.88) and the Mets’ Mike Jacobs in 2005 (9.09).

Ø Blake Snell has averaged at least 11.00 strikeouts per nine innings in each of the last three seasons, tied for the longest streak in AL history (minimum 10 starts each season) along with Pedro Martinez (1999-01), Yu Darvish (2013-16), Chris Sale (2017-19) and Gerrit Cole (2018-20).

Ø Matt Shoemaker is 4-0 in seven career starts against the Rays, making him the only active pitcher who has made at least seven starts against Tampa Bay and never lost.

New York Yankees at Cleveland Indians

Ø The Indians will be looking to win their first World Series since 1948, the second-longest active title drought among MLB/NBA/NFL/NHL teams behind the Arizona Cardinals (last title in 1947).

Ø Jose Ramirez had an .841 slugging percentage in September this year, the second time in his career he has had an .800+ slugging percentage in September (also 2017). He’s the ninth player in the modern era to have at least two such Septembers in his career (minimum 75 PA), along with Barry Bonds, Jimmie Foxx, Hank Greenberg, Rogers Hornsby, Ralph Kiner, Mark McGwire, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams.

Ø The Yankees had a .530 slugging percentage at home this season but a .358 slugging percentage on the road, the largest disparity (.172) in a season in American League history.

Ø This season Luke Voit became the first right-handed hitter in Yankees history to average at least a home run every 10.00 at-bats in a season (minimum 3.1 PA per team game).

Ø Gerrit Cole has a career WHIP of 0.87 in the postseason, second best all-time (minimum 10 starts) behind Christy Mathewson (0.85).

Ø Shane Bieber’s 14.20 strikeouts per nine innings this season were the most in MLB history, while his 1.63 ERA was the lowest since Greg Maddux in 1994 (1.56; minimum 1 IP per team game for both).

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