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 Texans didn't have an answer for Derrick Henry. Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Romeo Crennel made a valorous call that might have costed the Houston Texans from winning their second consecutive game on Sunday. Up by seven with 1:50 left in the fourth quarter, Crennel decided to call a two-point conversion following Deshaun Watson's one-yard touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks.

During the two-point conversion, Watson had a look at an open Randall Cobb, but Titans' defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons got a hand on the ball to deflect the pass. The failed conversion allowed the Titans to take a 42-36 victory over the Texans inside Nissan Stadium. Tennessee scored 13 unanswered points, which included a seven-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill to A.J. Brown to send the game into overtime.

"I think I would do it again," Crennel said during his media availability on Monday. "You are on the road against a divisional opponent who is undefeated, and if you could get that two-point conversion — you shut the door on them. We had a guy open, but unfortunately, the ball got tipped and we did not make it. I would do it again because it was a good choice."

The decision to not kick the field goal caused somewhat of an uproar, but it is understandable why Crennel made the call. Crennel had faith in Watson to put the Texans in a position to close the game, similar to his 4th-and-4 call during last week's victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

In the end, Crennel's risky decisions could stem from the lack of faith he has in the Texans' depleted defense.

Houston's defense hit an all-time low against the Titans. They gave up a franchise-worst 601 total yards — with Derrick Henry accounting for 212 yards on 22 carries. But despite their struggles against the run, the Texans' secondary were just as faulty. They gave up a total of 338 yards through the air and allowed Tannehill to go 8-for-9 down the field during the Titans' final drive of regulation.

Had Houston's defense made a stop during the closing seconds of the fourth quarter, the Texans could have ended the game 2-0 under their interim head coach.

"I wanted to go ahead and get the two points — I felt like that would have put the game out of reach for them," Crennel said. "If we had gotten it, we would have been in much better shape. But we did not get it. We did not perform well in overtime, and they [Titans] won the game."

Following Sunday's heartbreaking loss, Texans safety Justin Reid said it best, "Had we converted on the two-point conversion, this would be a totally different conversation. So it is what it is."

Up next, the 1-5 Texans will look to bounce back from defeat against the 4-1 Green Bay Packers, inside NRG Stadium on Sunday. Kick-off is at 12:00 PM CT.

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