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

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome