Two more wins and they're in

ALCS Game 6 Preview: Astros vs. Rays

Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

After a wild ride in Game 5, where the Astros would gamble and win on a bullpen day, they live to play ALCS Game 6 on Friday and get to hand the ball to their best pitcher right now, Framber Valdez. With a win, they will force one more game, a decisive Game 7, with a chance to become the second team in MLB history to erase a 3-0 series deficit in a best-of-seven series. But first, Game 6:

Game Facts

When: Friday, October 16th, 5:07 PM Central.

Where: Petco Park - San Diego, California.


Streaming: Watch TBS App.

Pitching Matchup: Framber Valdez vs. Blake Snell

Series: TB leads 3-2.

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 5Final: Astros 4, Rays 3John Curtiss (ND) vs Luis Garcia (ND)Astros
Game 6Fri 10/16, 5:07 PMFramber Valdez vs. Blake SnellRays
Game 7*Sat 10/17, 7:37 PMLance McCullers Jr.+ vs. Charlie Morton+Rays

All games played at Petco Park.

* If necessary
+ Projected starter

Game Storylines

A great time to bat first

After playing the home team in the last three games and batting second, building their momentum along the way, Houston will now switch back to the visiting team for Game 6, and if they force it, Game 7. Heading to the plate first presents them a chance to continue their recent momentum and set the tone right away in the game, if they can score, especially on another first-inning home run.

Beyond that, while they have done increasingly better to get hits and bring in runs, the Astros still need to improve. In particular, Alex Bregman could use a slump-busting performance. Since going 2-for-4 in Game 1, he has gone 1-for-15 over the last four games, including some tough-luck outs along the way. If he can heat up and have a good day, that bodes well for Houston.

A great time to have your best arm on the mound

Dusty Baker stated that had Game 5 gone to extra innings, they would have been forced to bring in Framber Valdez to pitch some innings. Instead, Correa's walk-off home run has them in a prime position to stay in and possibly win this series. Valdez has been Houston's best arm down this stretch, including giving his team six two-run innings in a Game 1 loss.

After the bullpen day on Thursday, they will need him to have a similar or better start, as they can't afford to dip into their bullpen too early. Having used seven of their relievers in Game 5, including an extended appearance by Enoli Paredes and more than an inning by Ryan Pressly, it'll be interesting how Dusty Baker navigates the back-half of the game, especially if it's close or if the Astros are down. To his credit, he's had a couple of good days of right calls and gambles, so we'll see what he can pull from up his sleeve.

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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Yainer Diaz should be a big factor early in the season. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images.

Opening Day for the Houston Astros is right around the corner and the reigning champions of the baseball world have set their final roster.

Three players whose names stood on the final 26 were catchers Yainer Diaz and Cesar Salazar as well as right-handed pitcher Ronel Blanco, and outfielder Corey Julks.

While some might be surprised to see their names on the main roster, the Astros’ logic behind it reveals the focus is not just on this season, but for the future as well.

Let’s start with Diaz and Salazar, who both edged out prospect Korey Lee for the backup catcher position. Lee was the Astros’ first-round selection in the 2019 draft. His numbers during 2023 spring training were .258/.343/.827 with two home runs and six RBI in 31 at-bats.

In comparison, Diaz’s slashes were .325/.317/.892 with one home run and eight RBI in 40 at-bats. Salazar put together a slash line of .286/.407/.978 with a home run and seven RBI in 21 at-bats.

While not making the opening day roster is a blow for Lee, Houston general manager Dana Brown said it is not necessarily a reflection of where the organization views him as a player.

Brown said it is vital for Lee to play every single day being a first-round sound selection. That would not be the case had he made the Astros roster, with Martin Maldonaldo solidified as the starter.

“He's like a big time, frontline guy with some power, so you can't have guys like that sitting on the bench at the Major League level, so you have to get him playing time,” Brown said. “Whereas Salazar is a backup catcher, and he fills that role better.”

While that argument works regarding Salazar, it will be interesting to see what Diaz does with his roster spot. Both Diaz and Lee are 24 years old. Diaz made his MLB debut last September and appeared in only six games for the Astros.

As for Blanco, the right-handed pitcher put together an impressive spring training for Houston that earned him his spot in the bullpen. The Dominican Republic native pitched 14 innings, giving up only one run. He put together a 0.64 ERA.

Blanco is going to be raring to showcase to Houston his improvement from last season. He had a rough 2022 season in the big leagues, appearing in only seven games and giving up five runs and accumulating a 7.11 ERA.

The 29-year-old beat out pitchers like Brandon Bielak and veteran Austin Davis to make the team’s crowded bullpen. For Blanco, it is all about producing in the majors.

One final player to spotlight is Corey Julks. He came as a bit of a surprise as well, with many thinking Justin Dirden's impressive spring could get him a spot on the roster. But Julks has more experience and posted a big year with the Space Cowboys in 2022. The former University of Houston Cougar crushed 31 home runs for Sugar Land last year and had a slash line this spring of .275/.318/.550 with 2 homers.

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