Houston in desperate need of a win

ALCS Game 3 Preview: Rays vs. Astros

Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

It's (practically speaking) now or never for the Astros. After dropping Games 1 and 2, Houston faces a potential 3-0 deficit should they lose ALCS Game 3 on Tuesday night, a point in a seven-game series that, even in baseball, is just about impossible to come back from and win.

Houston does have some good points of their game to consider, along with some bad luck and small yet costly mental errors to avoid to turn this series around. Here are some facts and storylines for Game 3:

Game Facts

When: Tuesday, October 13th, 7:40 PM Central.

Where: Petco Park - San Diego, California.

TV: TBS.

Streaming: Watch TBS App.

Pitching Matchup: Ryan Yarbrough vs. Jose Urquidy.

Series: TB leads 2-0.

Series Schedule

Date & Time (Central)Pitching MatchupHome Team
Game 1Final: Rays 2, Astros 1Framber Valdez (L) vs. Blake Snell (W)Rays
Game 2Final: Rays 4, Astros 2Lance McCullers Jr. (L) vs. Charlie Morton (W)Rays
Game 3Tue 10/13, TBDRyan Yarbrough vs. Jose UrquidyAstros
Game 4Wed 10/14, TBDTyler Glasnow 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

The smallest changes can have the biggest impacts

The Astros can use any excuse to treat this like a new series and shrug off the first two games. The ultimate way to do that would be winning the next two games and making it a fresh, best-of-three over the last three games. Until then, they can at least take the change of outlook by batting second in Game 3 as they play the home team.

That allows them the opportunity to build some confidence on the field behind Jose Urquidy before they step into the box. That confidence could be the difference between their hard-luck outs so far in this series and putting some runs on the board, something they'll need to do early on Tuesday. Houston must improve with runners in scoring position, where they currently sit 3-for-16. If they can cash in on a few of those chances when they come up, Game 3 will look vastly different from the prior two.

Keep fighting the pitching battle

With the three-run home run allowed by Lance McCullers Jr. in Game 2 coming after an error, those runs would go down as unearned. He allowed just one earned run over his seven impressive innings, following Game 1 starter Framber Valdez, who allowed two earned runs over six. Combine the two, and they've gone 13 innings of three-run baseball, with three innings of scoreless bullpen work after them to finish both games.

On the other side, the Rays have just ten innings out of their starters and already eight from their relievers. That gives the Astros, at least in terms of rest, a bullpen advantage in Game 3 and potentially beyond. If they can chase Tampa Bay's starter out at five innings or less once again, ideally with runs already on the board, the Astros will be in a position to stress the Rays' bullpen further, which could be a pivotal component to the final games of the series.

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

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.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome