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Astros shoot to KO Twins, punch ticket to another ALCS

MINNEAPOLIS — The Houston Astros will try to advance to the American League Championship Series for the seventh season in a row when they face the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday.

The Astros hold a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five AL Division Series entering Game 4. Houston split the first two games of the series at home before cruising to a 9-1 win in Game 3 on Tuesday in Minnesota.

Jose Abreu homered twice for the Astros on Tuesday, while Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez each hit one home run. Cristian Javier struck out nine in five scoreless innings.

Now, the focus shifts to Houston right-hander Jose Urquidy. He went 3-3 with a 5.29 ERA in 16 appearances (10 starts) for the Astros during the regular season but has not yet pitched during the playoffs this year.

The 28-year-old has appeared in 12 career postseason games, making six starts. He is 3-2 with a 3.72 ERA in his playoff career, and he earned wins in both of his appearances in the 2021 World Series against the Atlanta Braves.

In three career regular-season starts against Minnesota, Urquidy is 0-0 with a 2.93 ERA. He has walked two and struck out 17 in 15 1/3 innings. He also tossed 4 1/3 innings of one-run ball vs. the Twins in a 2020 AL wild-card series.

Urquidy is eager to take the ball on for Game 4.

“I was waiting for the chance since we started the series,” Urquidy said. “I’m anxious to pitch (Wednesday). I’m anxious to finish the series (Wednesday) and enjoy it with the guys.”

The Twins will counter with Joe Ryan (11-10, 4.51 ERA in regular season).

The 27-year-old right-hander will be making his postseason debut. His most recent outing came on Sept. 29 against the Colorado Rockies, when he gave up six runs on eight hits in five innings.

Ryan spent several games ready in the bullpen but was not called upon in the AL wild-card series against the Toronto Blue Jays nor the ALDS up until now.

“I think it’s good to have a little bit of rest, too, after the long season,” Ryan said. “I think if you just keep everything firing how it should be and make sure your pitches are there, it’s not too much of a worry.”

Ryan is 1-2 with an 8.36 ERA in three career starts against the Astros. That includes a pair of outings during the 2023 regular season in which he gave up nine runs in 10 innings.

Twins manager Rocco Baldelli expressed confidence that Ryan could rise to the moment.

“He’ll be motivated,” Baldelli said. “He’ll be ready to perform. I think he’s been waiting for his opportunity to go out there, and we know when it’s going to be now.

“I think there are a lot of different directions that these playoff games can go. There are scenarios where Joe’s probably going out there and pitching deep into the game. There are scenarios, even good scenarios for us where he’s not, but I don’t want to complicate things for him in any way. I just want him to go out there and focus on making good pitches.”

The Astros have reached the World Series in four of the past six seasons, winning two championships. The Twins haven’t reached the ALCS since 2002.

–Tom Musick, Field Level Media

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