Correa leads Twins in ALDS against his former team the Houston Astros

HOUSTON – Houston manager Dusty Baker admitted this week that Carlos Correa is one of his favorite players.

That goodwill toward the former Astros star turned Minnesota mainstay won’t extend into this weekend, when Houston hosts the Twins in the AL Division Series.

“Personally, I don’t care if it’s my brother or my mama or dad or anybody on the other side,” Baker said. “If they’re on the other side when the game time starts, well, they are the opposition.”

Correa was drafted first overall by Houston in 2012 and spent seven seasons with the Astros before signing with the Twins prior to the 2022 season. He remains close with many Astros players and coaches but agreed with Baker that he’ll push that aside when the best-of-five series starts Saturday.

“We’ll be friends again after this series,” Correa said Friday. “Right now, we’re both … focused on winning this series. It’s an important one.”

The shortstop has put his past with Houston behind him and is focused on his future with the Twins. But he admitted it’s nice to be back in the city this week and see some of the fans who loved him so much when he was a perennial postseason star for the Astros.

“I went to eat last night, and all the Astros fans are wishing me good luck,” Correa said. “I’m like: ‘are you sure you want to wish me good luck?’”

The Twins swept the Blue Jays 2-0 in the first round to win a playoff series for the first time in 21 years and get the chance to face the defending champion Astros, who are in their seventh-consecutive Division Series.

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Houston’s Justin Verlander opposes Minnesota’s Bailey Ober in the opener and Astros’ left-hander Framber Valdez faces Pablo López in Game 2 on Sunday night.

BUXTON RETURNS?

Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli wouldn’t say whether there was a chance Byron Buxton would be on this round’s roster after Buxton was left off against Toronto . Buxton, the second overall pick in the 2012 amateur draft, hasn’t played since straining his right hamstring Aug. 1. He’s also dealt with knee issues that have kept him from playing in the field all season.

But Buxton is ramping up his activity.

“I’m not going to answer the roster questions right now,” Baldelli said. “But he is going to go out … (and) hit a live BP today.”

BACK LIKE HE NEVER LEFT

Verlander returned to the Astros in a trade with the Mets this summer.

It’s the second time Verlander will start in the postseason for the Astros after beginning the season with another team. In 2017, he played for the Tigers, was traded on Aug. 31 and helped the Astros to their first World Series title.

He said that situation felt completely different.

“It feels like I’ve been here. … It was obviously a weird season, just going to New York for a few months and then coming right back,” he said. “Best analogy that I’ve heard is I did a summer abroad. It’s kind of funny. That’s how I felt.”

Verlander, 40, will be making his 35th postseason start. He was 13-8 with a 3.22 ERA in 27 starts this season. The three-time Cy Young Award winner was 7-3 with a 3.31 ERA in 11 starts for Houston after the trade.

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BIG GAME LEWIS

Minnesota rookie Royce Lewis was the star of the Wild Card Series, hitting two home runs in Game 1 to propel the Twins to the 3-1 win.

Lewis, chosen first overall in the 2017 amateur draft, has been plagued by injuries in his professional career and tore his right ACL in both 2021 and 2022.

Lewis already has some good memories at Minute Maid Park. He homered with four RBIs in his season debut here in May a year to the day after his second season-ending knee injury.

“I remember how electric this place was,” Lewis said. “I like any environment that makes baseball better, and this is one of those stadiums that does that. This is a great team to do that for baseball as well. I’m excited for the challenge tomorrow. It will be fun.”

CLOSED

The roof at Minute Maid Park will be closed for Saturday and Sunday’s games despite cooler temperatures expected in Houston. After a brutally hot summer, the forecast calls for temperatures in the high 70s this weekend.

The Astros played just one game with the roof open this year, and Baker said he prefers for it to be closed.

“Because that’s what we’re used to,” he said. “With the wind conditions and directions and how the ball carries, so probably (what) more we’re familiar with.”

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