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.


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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The Houston Astros haven't counted on their catchers to deliver much offensive production in recent years, with defensive specialist Martin Maldonado being their primary catcher for the last few seasons. But top hitting prospect Yainer Diaz is making a case to get more playing time behind the plate and at first, based on his ability to swing the bat.

Until recently, he hasn't been able to get any meaningful playing time. Even David Hensley, who was optioned to Sugar Land a few weeks ago, has more plate appearances than Diaz this season.

So how does manager Dusty Baker find more opportunities for Diaz? Should he use him more often as a DH, along with getting time at first base and catcher?

And what does that mean for Jose Abreu, Martin Maldonado, and to a lesser extent, former first round pick and Sugar Land Space Cowboy catcher, Korey Lee?

Plus, considering how good the Astros outfielders have been this year, does the team need to grab another bat before the trade deadline?

Don't miss the video above as we break it all down!

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