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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This is a rough week for Astros fans. Photo by Getty Images. Composite image by Brandon Strange

On Tuesday night former Astros center fielder George Springer agreed to a 6-year $150 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays according to MLB Network's, Jon Heyman. Now we have reports that Michael Brantley will sign a 3-year deal with the Blue Jays and join Springer in Toronto.

This is a crushing blow for the Astros to lose both Brantley and Springer to Toronto. Former Astros right fielder Josh Reddick is also a free agent that won't be returning to Houston, which puts the Astros in a position where they only have one starter locked-in to play the outfield in 2021, that being Kyle Tucker. Just last year the Astros lost one of the best pitchers in baseball, when Gerrit Cole broke the bank signing a 9-year $324 million contract with the Yankees. Add that to Springer and Brantley leaving for Toronto and you have an Astros team losing three of their best players in short order. In Brantley's two seasons with Houston he hit over .300 with 27 bombs and 112 RBI.

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