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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The Astros play Game 1 of the ALDS Tuesday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

With a nod to Charles Dickens, October is the best of times (Astros) and the worst of times (Texans and Rockets) for Houston sports fans. At least this October.

October is the one month when all three of Houston’s major sports teams are guaranteed to be in full swing at the same time. It’s possible, if the Astros make the World Series that November will have all three teams in action, too. But let’s not jinx things.

The Astros start their playoff run Tuesday on TBS. Since the Yankees also play that day, also on TBS, we can assume the Astros will get the daytime slot, the Yankees in prime time. Now before Astros fans start screaming east coast bias, it really only applies to TV. Fun fact: no New York Met has ever won an MVP Award, and only one Yankee has won it in the past 37 years – Alex Rodriguez in 2005 and 2007. How’d that work out for him? Most important, a New York team has won the World Series only once in the past two decades – the Yankees in 2009.

The Astros could play as many as 15 more games in October, five in the Division Series, seven in the League Championship Series and three in the World Series before the calendar flips to November.

Meanwhile, the Texans plod on with three more games in October, and the Rockets have 11.

The winless Texans are at home against the Titans at NRG Stadium, on the road against the Jaguars and Raiders.

The Rockets, coming off the worst record in the NBA last season, have three games at home at Toyota Center and eight on the road.

This presents a problem of abundance, an embarrassment of riches, for Houston sports junkies. Who are you going to watch on TV? Which team will you pay to watch in person? Who are you rooting for the most? Whose jersey will you buy?

David Puddy is right, you “gotta support the team,” but who will own Houston this month?

What to do? If it’s true that nothing succeeds like success, and everybody loves a winner – it’s an obvious choice.

The Astros.

The Astros just completed their regular season with 106 wins, second most in franchise history, another American League West title, the best record in the American League and will have home field advantage throughout the AL playoffs. Even though fans had high hopes for the Astros entering 2022, the team smashed everybody’s expectations. Vegas put the Astros over/under wins at 92 games. The Astros seemingly flew by that number during spring training.

They are the first team in American League history to win 100 games in four of their last five full seasons. Not even Babe Ruth’s Yankees of the 1920s and 1930s did that. This core of Astros has won five of the last six American League West titles. They’ve played in three of the last five World Series. This is a dynasty right before our eyes. We’re witness to greatness. How ‘bout them Astros?

What a season it was. Who could have figured that 39-year-old Justin Verlander, out of action for two seasons after Tommy John surgery, would have a career year, a ridiculously skinny earned run average and the overwhelming pick for the Cy Young Award? Jose Altuve would return to a .300 batting average, Cristian Javier would lead the team in strikeouts, Yordan Alvarez would finish No. 2 between Aaron Judge and Mike Trout in OPS, and rookie Jeremy Pena would slug 22 home runs, the same number as Carlos Correa? Remember last offseason and cries of “pay the man!” Some of a team’s best deals are the ones they don’t make.

Strap yourself in for an October to remember. The storylines are endless. There’s bad blood between the Astros and the Yankees, between the Astros and Dodgers, between the Astros and boo birds in every stadium not named Minute Maid Park.

It’s going to be fun.

As for the Texans, Deshaun Watson returns to action Nov. 4 against the Texans here at NRG Stadium. And we’ll catch up with the Rockets when the NBA season starts for real on Christmas Day. But until then … play ball!

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