We've reached the point of the MLB Postseason where checkers turns into chess.
Strategy is as much a part of how teams win as the talent on the field, as good managers are often bested by the great ones this deep into October. Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker is in the latter category, as he's a future Hall of Famer who has established an ability to make the right call when it counts.
So many times over the years we've seen managers fall into a pit of doom with overthinking their decisions. The Twins were on the right side of a bad break last round, when Toronto Blue Jays manager John Schnieder pulled Jose Berrios in the middle of a brilliant start to try and play the strategy game.
The logic made sense and technically worked. Minnesota was forced to adjust its lineup on the fly and take out key players to account for left-handed pitching. It was an analytical success that backfired practically -- the Twins scored two runs and never let go of the lead.
Great managers don't overplay their hand but are still forced to gamble, which is why Dusty's latest move for Houston is one that might bail the Twins out if everything breaks their way.
Twins Rumors: Astros won't use Justin Verlander while at Target Field
According to Twins beat writer Do-Hyoung Park, the Astros aren't planning on starting Justin Verlander in Game 4, which is potentially huge for the Twins.
Verlander put the Twins down in Game 1, smoothing out a bumpy start to his performance to finish with six shutout innings that saw him strike out six Twins batters. It wasn't until Houston turned to its bullpen in the seventh that Minnesota started to get back into the game.
Coming into Game 1, Verlander boasted a 5-1 record with a 0.64 ERA against the Twins since 2018. He knows the team well from his days in Detroit, but even with his Tigers years well in the rearview he's still found a way to dominate every version of Minnesota he's faced -- including in Game 1.
Not having to face Verlander while the series is at Target Field is absolutely huge for the Twins.
If Dusty sticks to his plan, there's a chance Minnesota won't have to see Verlander again this postseason. The next two games are in Minneapolis, and if the Twins can sweep they'll win the series and advance.
What Dusty is gambling on is the Astros winning one of the next two games, which would allow him to pitch Verlander in a win-or-go-home Game 5 back in Houston. That's a potential nightmare scenario for the Twins, who would be able to throw Pablo Lopez on the mound but would still face the same offensive struggles that existed in Game 1.
It's a gamble, and not at all a bad one by the Astros, but it's a chance for the Twins to take advantage in a pretty sigifincant way.