Twins aim to cash in on home-field advantage in Game 3 vs. Astros

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins will try to remain perfect at home in the postseason when they host the Houston Astros on Tuesday afternoon in Game 3 of the American League Division Series.

The best-of-five series is even at 1-1 after each team won a game in Houston. The Astros won the series opener 6-4 on Saturday and lost the second contest 6-2 on Sunday. Yordan Alvarez racked up three home runs for Houston in those two games.

Now the series shifts north, where temperatures are expected to be in the 50s for first pitch.

The Twins have won both of their home games in the playoffs, having eliminated the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL wild-card series. They snapped an 18-game postseason losing streak and won their first playoff series since 2004.

Shortstop Carlos Correa has played a significant role in the Twins’ newfound playoff success. He is hitting .533 (8-for-15) with three doubles and four RBIs in four postseason games in 2023.

The 29-year-old spent his first seven seasons with the Astros. He acknowledged that it felt good to beat his former team in the ballpark that he used to call home.

“I would be lying if I said no,” Correa said. “It’s cool when you do it against your former team. But at the same time, the ultimate goal is for us to win the series. I’m focused on bringing a championship to Minnesota, and that’s what everybody in our clubhouse is working towards.

“We’ve still got to win two more games in this series. It’s going to be a good one. We’ve got a great team on the other side. I know what happens when they lose a game. I’ve been on the other side, and I know the speech and the meetings and all the stuff that happens. They’ll be ready to go in the next game. So will we.”

Astros right-hander Cristian Javier will try to spoil the Twins’ optimism. Javier went 10-5 with a 4.56 ERA in 31 starts this season, and he struck out 159 batters in 162 innings.

Javier is no stranger to the postseason. He is 4-1 with a 2.20 ERA in 14 games (two starts), and he pitched six scoreless innings en route to earning a victory over the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series last season.

In one career appearance against Minnesota, Javier is 0-0 with a 4.50 ERA.

“I’ve heard there are big expectations of me for my next outing, but I’m just going to do what I do every single time, which is go out there and compete,” Javier said.

The Twins will counter with right-hander Sonny Gray, who will make his second start of this postseason. Gray pitched five scoreless innings in a win over the Blue Jays in the wild-card series. He was 8-8 with a 2.79 ERA over 184 innings in 32 starts in the regular season.

In five career playoff starts, Gray is 1-2 with a 2.39 ERA. He has 24 strikeouts in 26 1/3 innings.

Gray, 33, is 4-4 with a 3.03 ERA in 12 career starts against the Astros.

Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said his players, led by Correa, would be focused for Game 3.

“We’ve always heard all of the sayings,” Baldelli said. “When the lights come on, and the bright lights, there are some guys, they’re giants in the light. And he’s one of them. That’s what he is.”