Astros open Wild Card series

Houston headed to fourth straight postseason

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For the first time in franchise history, the Houston Astros are playing in the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season.

Although the first three years of the streak Houston entered as the division champion, this year the Astros drew the No. 6 seed as one of the extra Wild Card teams in the expanded playoff system for the coronavirus-shortened season. The Astros began their battle with the Minnesota Twins, winners of the American League Central, in a best-of-three series earlier this week when Zack Greinke got the ball to start Game One.

The Astros’ lone experience in the Wild Card was back in 2015 when it was a singular, winner-take-all game in New York against the Yankees where Houston came out on top, 3-0. Jose Altuve, George Springer and Carlos Correa all started in that game, although the Astros fell to the eventual World Series champion Kansas City Royals.

Houston Manager Dusty Baker became the first skipper in MLB history to take five different teams to the postseason. He also took the Giants (1997, 2000, 2002), Cubs (2003), Reds (2010, 2012-13) and Nationals (2016-17) into the playoffs. Over his 23-year managerial career, Baker has won 1,892 regular-season games for 15th all-time.

Entering Tuesday’s series-opener, Baker is 23-32 in the postseason as a manager and made only one World Series in 2002 at the helm of the San Francisco Giants, which lost in seven games to the Anaheim Angels.

The Astros finished the shortened regular season with a 29-31 record and seven games out of first place after an 8-4 loss on Sunday to the Texas Rangers that evened out the season series to 5-5.

Shortstop Carlos Correa finished with a .995 fielding percentage (one error on 212 chances) to break the franchise record that was set by Adam Everett in 2006 at .990. Entering the season finale, Correa led AL shortstops with eight defensive runs saved, ranked second in double plays with 34, and tied for second in assists with 140.

Although it snapped in the final regular-season game, George Springer closed the season on a 12-game hit streak, which served as the longest by an Astro this season and tied the third-longest of his career. He had an average of .347 in that span with six home runs and 10 RBI.

Springer finished with the team lead in runs scored (37), home runs (14), walks (24), slugging percentage (.540) and on-base plus slugging (.899). He was second on the team in triples (2), RBI (32) and on-base percentage (.364).

Even though he was only playing in his third Major League season, Kyle Tucker played less than 30 games the first two years but led the Houston offense in four categories in 58 games played this season. He had the most hits (56), triples (6), RBI (42) and stolen bases (8) on the team. What he didn’t lead in, he was second-best at, including runs scored (33), doubles (12), home runs (9), batting average (.268) and slugging (.512).

For the third straight season, Michael Brantley finished with a batting average over .300, although this year he was right on that number to take the team lead. He was also first in doubles (15) and on-base percentage (.364) and finished second in on-base plus slugging (.840) and third in hits (51) as one of four Astros over 50 hits (Carlos Correa with 53).

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