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Astros hang on to beat Twins, advance to 7th straight ALCS

MINNEAPOLIS — Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker had one thing on his mind when he arrived at Target Field on Wednesday.

Finish the job today, Baker thought. Don’t leave it up to a winner-take-all Game 5 against the feisty Minnesota Twins.

Baker got his wish, as the Astros held on for a 3-2 win over the Twins to clinch the American League Division Series in four games.

“They played us tough,” Baker said. “We had to do everything we could to try to win that game today, and we really wanted it, especially because you don’t want to go back home to play that fifth game if you don’t have to.”

Jose Abreu went 2-for-4 with a go-ahead, two-run homer for Houston.

The Astros advance to the AL Championship Series for the seventh season in a row. Only the Atlanta Braves have a longer streak of reaching consecutive championship series, punching their ticket to eight straight National League Championship Series beginning in 1991.

The defending World Series champions will meet the Texas Rangers in the best-of-seven ALCS, with the first game scheduled for Sunday in Houston.

Michael Brantley also homered for the Astros, who won both games on the road against the Twins. Chas McCormick finished 2-for-3.

Royce Lewis and Edouard Julien each hit a solo home run in a losing effort for Minnesota. The defeat ended a feel-good season for the Twins, who won the AL Central, snapped an 18-game playoff losing streak and earned their first postseason series win since 2002 before falling short against Houston.

“Normally I don’t talk about what we talk about in the clubhouse, but I just addressed the team,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I thought our players got better through the year. The team is hungry in a way that I don’t think we probably even were before.

“You get a taste of something like this, you show this to people, what this looks like and what it is. We’re not that far from playing in the World Series. …

“We didn’t get it done in this series. We got beat. But I couldn’t be happier with what I saw from so many of our guys.”

Astros right-hander Jose Urquidy (1-0) held the Twins to two runs on three hits in 5 2/3 innings. He walked one and struck out six.

Twins left-hander Caleb Thielbar (0-1) drew the loss in relief. He gave up two runs on two hits in two-thirds of an inning.

Houston closer Ryan Pressly notched his second save of the series and the 13th save of his postseason career. He struck out the side in the ninth, getting Max Kepler looking to close out the game.

The Twins jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Lewis hit a blast to left-center field for his second home run of the series and his fourth of the postseason.

Brantley hit a solo shot to even the score at 1-1 in the second. He took strike one before hammering the next pitch over the wall in right field.

The Astros pulled ahead 3-1 in the fourth thanks to Abreu’s two-run shot. The opposite-field blast marked Abreu’s third home run in the past two games.

In the sixth, the Twins pulled within 3-2 on a solo homer by Julien. The rookie hit an 86 mph changeup from Urquidy over the left field wall for his first career playoff home run.

–Tom Musick, Field Level Media

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