For the first time in over twenty years, Minnesota Twins baseball is extending deeper into the postseason.
Minnesota won its first playoff series since 2002 last week, sweeping the Toronto Blue Jays to win one of two AL Wild Card matchups. Texas managed to pull off an upset in the other series, beating the Tampa Bay Rays to move on and play top-seeded Baltimore.
The Twins reward for winning is a trip to Houston and a rematch with the Astros.
While Minnesota won the season series over Houston 4-2 this year, the Astros are an entirely different beast in October. Carlos Correa compared the young Twins team to the one he was part of in Houston back in 2015, but the Astros are now a finely tuned postseason machine that always seems to find a way to win this time of year.
Just like how the Golden State Warriors have experienced sustained excellence in the NBA, the Astros have managed to do the same thing in MLB. Houston has made the postseason eight of the last nine years, winning the World Series twice, and have the energy of an Austin Powers villain that can't be killed.
That's what the Twins are up again, regular season series victory or not.
What feels different about this year compared to others for Minnesota is how well the team looks. In years past the team would enter series like this one with Houston and need to spackle holes in the roster and hope for the best. This time around the Twins are sending out formidable pitching matchups and boast an offense that is well-equipped to steal a game or two from the Astros -- and perhaps outright win the series.
The monkey is officially off the team's back, and the dreaded postseason curse is over. Now it's time to start writing a new chapter, and that all begins in Houston and the ALDS.
Minnesota Twins playoff roster 2023: ALDS lineup and rotation (Updated)
One burning question heading into the Wild Card series was whether or not some of the Twins key players would be healthy. Both Carlos Correa and Royce Lewis manged to fight through injuries to play -- and have a huge imapct on the series -- but the same can't be said for Byron Buxton.
Not having Buxton is a glarring hole on the team's roster. We saw how important it was to have Lewis and Correa, and the Twins might not win the series over Toronto without them. Lewis put himself on the map to a national audience with his two home run playoff debut, and Correa made two key defensive plays to help put the Blue Jays away.
One can only imagine what Buxton might have done if he were healthy enough to play. Minnesota will once again play without one of their best players in the mix, as Buxton was left off the ALDS roster. In fact, the Twins only made one change from what the AL Wild Card roster was, swapping out Kody Funderburk for Bailey Ober.
Ober is slated to start Game 1 in Houston on Saturday.
Here's the official roster that Rocco Baldelli submitted on Saturday morning ahead of the ALDS:
Michael A. Taylor
Twins vs. Astros ALDS TV schedule and start times
Here's when each game of the ALDS will be played and where to watch it on TV:
Saturday, Oct. 7th
Sunday, Oct. 8th
Tuesday, Oct. 10th
Wednesday, Oct. 11th
Friday, Oct. 13th