A chance to even the series

ALCS Game 2 Preview: Astros vs. Rays

Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

It was expected that the Astros would not be launching home runs and RBI hits at the rapid pace they were in the ALDS against the A's once they met the Rays in the ALCS, who dons a much stiffer pitching roster. Still, putting up just one run, which came on a first-inning solo home run by Jose Altuve, was far from what Houston could have hoped for if they want to be able to take this series.

There are things to build off for Houston from Sunday's Game 1 loss, albeit needed in very short order, with Game 2 coming just a little less than 17 hours after the final out. A win evens the series and shifts it into a best-of-five, while a loss will put the Astros at a significant disadvantage to pull out a series victory. Here are some quick facts and storylines for Monday's important Game 2:

Game Facts

When: Monday, October 12th, 3:07 PM Central.

Where: Petco Park - San Diego, California.

TV: TBS.

Streaming: Watch TBS App.

Pitching Matchup: Lance McCullers Jr. vs Charlie Morton

Series: TB leads 1-0.

Series Schedule

Date & Time (Central)Pitching MatchupHome Team
Game 1Final: Rays 2, Astros 1Framber Valdez (L) vs. Blake Snell (W)Rays
Game 2Mon 10/12, 3:07 PMLance McCullers Jr. vs. TBDRays
Game 3Tue 10/13, TBDTBD vs. TBDAstros
Game 4Wed 10/14, TBDTBD vs. TBDAstros
Game 5*Thu 10/15, TBDTBD vs. TBDAstros
Game 6*Fri 10/16, TBDTBD vs. TBDRays
Game 7*Sat 10/17, TBDTBD vs. TBDRays

All games played at Petco Park.

* If necessary

Game Storylines

It's nearly as important as a must-win

No, the Astros aren't going home if they lose on Monday afternoon. However, going down 2-0 and looking down the barrel at a possible 3-0 deficit that is, for all intents and purposes, insurmountable, is a slippery slope to a disappointing series. On the other hand, getting into the win column and shortening the 1-1 series to a best-of-five puts Houston potentially right back into the driver's seat.

To that end, while they shouldn't fire all their bullets, the Astros should be aggressive in how they handle Game 2, especially if they hold a small lead late in the game. That means potentially bringing in one of your hottest relievers, Enoli Paredes, who did throw 12 pitches in Game 1, if needed to get out of a jam or play a setup role before Ryan Pressly to close things out. But first, to even have to make that decision, they'd have to score some runs...

Houston has to improve when given chances to score

Both teams had their chances to blow things open in Game 1, with Tampa Bay going 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, leaving nine on base, and Houston doing 2-for-8 and leaving ten. Credit to Houston's pitching that held the Rays in check, but it has to be the Astros' bats that back them up if they have a hope in this series.

They did a great job of working Blake Snell into long at-bats, making him throw 105 pitches over his five innings to get him out of the game early, but then did nothing with it by getting just three hits the rest of the way. On Monday, they'll have another chance facing former-teammate Charlie Morton, who has made it past 5.0 innings pitched just one time this whole season when he went 5.2 against the Red Sox on August 4th. Getting into the Rays' bullpen isn't exactly a reward, as the Astros found out Sunday night, but if they can stress out Tampa Bay's pitching early in this series and even it up, then they'll have their best chance.

Be sure to check SportsMap after the final out for an in-depth recap of the game, and follow me on Twitter for updates and reactions throughout each playoff game: @ChrisCampise

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Houston gets the best of the Dodgers

Astros behind McCullers Jr. get shutout win in hostile Dodger Stadium

Yordan Alvarez added some big insurance runs against the Dodgers on Tuesday night. Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Having dropped two of three in San Francisco against the league record-leading Giants over the weekend, the Astros exited an off day on Monday and entered a hostile environment at Dodger Stadium in the first of a two-game series on Tuesday night. With some timely hits and an excellent start from their starter, Houston would grab the win.

Final Score: Astros 3, Dodgers 0

Astros' Record: 65-42, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (9-2)

Losing Pitcher: Walker Buehler (11-2)

Houston scores first as McCullers Jr. out-duels Buehler

After nearly turning the game's very first pitch around for a home run but instead going foul, Jose Altuve still started the game with a single in the top of the first. A double play would erase him, though, as the game remained scoreless into the top of the third. Martin Maldonado led that inning off with a double, moved to third on a wild pitch by Walker Buehler, then scored on an RBI double by Michael Brantley, putting Houston ahead 1-0.

Houston threatened again in the top of the fourth, getting two on with two outs, bringing up Martin Maldonado with an empty base, which the Dodgers would use by intentionally walking him to get to Lance McCullers Jr., who grounded out to strand all three runners. He made up for it on the mound, though, out-dueling Buehler, who finished six innings while allowing a run by getting into the seventh scoreless. He would get two outs into that frame while giving up a single and a walk, leaving two on base for Blake Taylor, who came in to get the third out. McCullers Jr.'s final line: 6.2 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 9 K, 110 P.

Alvarez adds insurance as Astros take the opener in LA

Clinging to the one-run lead in the top of the eighth, Carlos Correa worked a one-out walk to bring Yordan Alvarez to the plate, who demolished a 415-foot two-run homer to add two big insurance runs, extending the lead to 3-0. Kendall Graveman took over out of the bullpen in the bottom of the eighth and, despite allowing a leadoff single and hitting a batter, was able to finish a scoreless inning.

With Ryan Pressly on the paternity list, Houston handed the ball to Ryne Stanek to close things out in the bottom of the ninth. He would get the job done, earning the save by retiring the Dodgers in order, giving the Astros the win at the dismay of the fans in Los Angeles.

Up Next: This short series's second and final game will begin thirty minutes earlier on Wednesday at 8:40 PM Central. For the Dodgers, they will get the debut of Max Scherzer (8-4, 2.76 ERA), while Jake Odorizzi (4-5, 4.30 ERA) will take the mound for the Astros.

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