There will be drama this weekend at Target Field. Sorry to spoil that surprise for you, but since it’s been five years since we’ve had meaningful October baseball around here, we figured readers needed a reminder on what to expect. Exciting things will be found at 1 Twins Way on Friday night, Saturday and Sunday, both on the field and on the ballpark’s out-of-town scoreboard. Here’s what you need to know ahead of all that fun:
The Twins have a 15.5 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to Baseball Prospectus. That’s not a huge percentage, but we have determined (with extensive scientific research) that it’s OK to be excited. Hey, if you had a 15.5 percent chance of winning the lottery…
Basically, two things need to happen for the Twins to get that second and final AL wild-card spot (the Yankees clinched the top wild-card spot Thursday night): The Twins need to win, and the Houston Astros need to lose at least once.
The Astros are the key; they have a one-game lead over both Minnesota and the L.A. Angels for that last spot and can clinch it by winning all three of their games.
Each team has three games left: the Twins are home for three against Kansas City starting tonight (7:10 p.m., FSN), the Astros are in Arizona for three (8:30 tonight, MLB Network) and the Angels have three more in Texas.
The Twins have an advantage in being the only wild-card contender playing at home the final weekend. The Astros have an advantage in having their two aces – Dallas Keuchel (19-8, 2.47) and Collin McHugh (18-7, 3.98) – on the mound Friday and Saturday, respectively. The Twins have Ervin Santana (7-4, 4.10) and Tommy Milone (9-5, 4.04) going in the first two games against the Royals, and if they are still in contention Sunday the best bet is Kyle Gibson will start on three days rest.
Now for some scenarios this weekend, and let’s start with Houston, the leaders:
If Houston goes 3-0: Twins have no chance to pass or tie the Astros. The Astros are in control, thanks to one fewer loss than Minnesota, and if they win out it doesn’t matter what the Twins do.
If Houston goes 2-1: Twins can tie the Astros but would need to sweep Kansas City in these three games. In this scenario, the Angels could make it a three-way tie with three victories in a row over Texas. (The Rangers would win the West in this scenario, since Houston didn’t catch them by losing once.)
If Houston goes 1-2: Twins can pass Houston by going 3-0, or tie for the final spot by going 2-1. The Angels are in the same boat as the Twins in these final two scenarios.
If Houston goes 0-3: Twins can pass Houston by going 3-0 or 2-1, or tie by going 1-2.
There are several scenarios in which two or all three of these teams could be tied with the same records after Sunday’s game. For now, Twins fans, you’re rooting for your team to win and the Astros to stumble. Stay up late tonight to watch the first game of Houston’s series (8:40 first pitch). The Astros play at 7:10 p.m. Saturday, and every game in baseball starts at about 2 p.m. on Sunday (Twins-Royals and Arizona-Houston are both 2:10).
Meaningful October baseball, enjoy it.
Star Tribune sports staff