Houston has to keep the series going

ALCS Game 5 Preview: Rays vs. Astros

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

We will have to wait and see how much longer this series goes, but the Astros did their job in ALCS Game 4, avoiding the sweep. They live on to play another game, which in this 2020 playoff format is right away with Game 5 on Thursday at 4:07 PM Central. Here is a quick look ahead at the game:

Game Facts

When: Thursday, October 15th, 4:07 PM Central.

Where: Petco Park - San Diego, California.

TV: TBS.

Streaming: Watch TBS App.

Pitching Matchup: John Curtiss (Opener) vs Luis Garcia.

Series: TB leads 3-1.

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 3Final: Rays 5, Astros 2Ryan Yarbrough (W) vs. Jose Urquidy (L)Astros
Game 4Final: Astros 4, Rays 3Tyler Glasnow (L) vs. Zack Greinke (W)Astros
Game 5Thu 10/15, 4:07 PMJohn Curtiss (Opener) vs Luis GarciaAstros
Game 6*Fri 10/16, 5:07 PMFramber Valdez+ vs. TBDRays
Game 7*Sat 10/17, 7:37 PMLance McCullers Jr.+ vs. TBDRays

All games played at Petco Park.

* If necessary
+ Projected starter

Game Storylines

Will another of Dusty Baker's gambles pay off?

One of the intriguing stories from the Game 4 win was Baker going to the mound in the sixth inning, potentially to take Zack Greinke out of the game. Instead, he "coached by feel" and trusted catcher Martin Maldonado who assured him that Greinke had the stuff to get out of the jam and finish the inning. With Greinke making it through, that gamble paid off as Houston would go on to win and survive.

It appears that Dusty will be taking another gamble today, where instead of starting Framber Valdez on short rest, he will trust some of his young, bullpen arms to try and make it through the game. That would set up the Astros to be in a good position in a Game 6 and 7 with both Framber Valdez and Lance McCullers Jr. on full rest, respectively. All of that could change, though, if the Astros are in a tight game or losing, which could prompt Baker to bring in Valdez, or anyone who can provide an inning or two for that matter, out of the bullpen.

Was Game 4 the tipping point for Houston's bats?

Once again, Jose Altuve hit a first-inning home run in Game 4, making it three out of four games he has done that this series. Houston's issue was that before Game 4, that was one of their few offensive highlights in each of those games. They were able to do better against Tyler Glasnow, though, starting with Altuve driving in a runner in scoring position in the third, something Houston had struggled with this whole week.

Later, George Springer would ultimately deliver the winning runs with a two-run home run. We've seen it time and time again with this team, they can go through some cold, tough-luck stretches, but then they return to form and start hitting the ball where the defense isn't, with a lot over the fence. In this series, which has been low-scoring so far, all it may take is something in between.

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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Martin Truex Jr. won his 2nd race of the season last week. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

NASCAR returns to the Commonwealth of Virginia for the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway. This is the first of two races here at this track as they will race on Sunday afternoon. This will be different from the normal night race they usually have here as this will definitely affect the racing surface considering how much the sun could make the track slick. It should be a fun race come Sunday.

Last week, Martin Truex Jr. passed Denny Hamlin to capture his second win of the season after rain moved the race to Sunday. He became the first driver to win multiple races after a fierce battle with his teammate Denny Hamlin. The race was filled with tons of wrecks including a fifteen car pileup including Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch. It was one of the better races of the season as there was lots of beating and banging.

The race was not without controversy but not the kind you would expect. Early in the race Rick Ware Racing teammates Cody Ware and James Davison were involved in an altercation. The two were battling towards the back of the pack when Ware decided to drive through his teammate in turn four. The race got much worse for Cody Ware as he was involved in three more cautions all throughout the race. Many people around the sport were quite perturbed by his antics including broadcaster Mike Joy as he was audibly annoyed after Ware spun out later in the race. Many have questioned if the fifth-year driver should even be in the car and overall I can understand why some of those people think that. In his five years of driving, he has finished on the lead lap one time. I hope that he is able to figure it out and find success in the future, but this was not a good look.

The slump continues for two-time champion Kyle Busch

Throughout the race, Busch was running okay for the most part but towards the closing laps of the race he and Chris Buescher got together triggering a fifteen car pileup. Despite all this, he was able to rebound to a respectable tenth place finish. This has been more than likely the toughest stretch of his career since his championship in 2019. Many would say that the omission of Practice and Qualifying has really affected his performance. Whatever the issue is, this team really needs to find some speed, or he could be in danger of missing the playoffs. I look for this team to bounce back considering how talented he is.

Prediction

The driver that I have winning this week is Kyle Larson. This has been an incredible rebound season for Larson as he currently sits fourth in points. He is also second in laps led only to Denny Hamlin. Richmond has been a great track for him as it fits his driving style perfectly as he can run the outside line and find grip where others can't. This track is also rather sentimental to him considering he won his first pole award here during his rookie season in 2014. While he may not have the results he would want he has always been extremely fast here and even won back in 2017. I look for him to capture his second victory of 2021 come Sunday.

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