Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
It all comes down to this. The Astros have erased a 3-0 deficit and tied the series with their 7-4 win over the Rays in ALCS Game 6. It sets up the best phrase in sports: Game 7. They've made it this far; now they just need to take the final step to make it to their third World Series in the last four years. Here's how the game shapes up:
When: Sautrday, October 17th, 7:37 PM Central.
Where: Petco Park - San Diego, California.
Streaming: Watch TBS App.
Pitching Matchup: Lance McCullers Jr. vs. Charlie Morton.
Series: tied 3-3.
|Date & Time (Central)||Pitching Matchup||Home Team|
|Game 1||Final: Rays 2, Astros 1||Framber Valdez (L) vs. Blake Snell (W)||Rays|
|Game 2||Final: Rays 4, Astros 2||Lance McCullers Jr. (L) vs. Charlie Morton (W)||Rays|
|Game 3||Final: Rays 5, Astros 2||Ryan Yarbrough (W) vs. Jose Urquidy (L)||Astros|
|Game 4||Final: Astros 4, Rays 3||Tyler Glasnow (L) vs. Zack Greinke (W)||Astros|
|Game 5||Final: Astros 4, Rays 3||John Curtiss (ND) vs Luis Garcia (ND)||Astros|
|Game 6||Final: Astros 7, Rays 4||Framber Valdez (W) vs. Blake Snell (L)||Rays|
|Game 7||Sat 10/17, 7:37 PM||Lance McCullers Jr. vs. Charlie Morton||Rays|
All games played at Petco Park.
All hands on deck
There's probably only one arm that is genuinely unavailable today, and that's Framber Valdez, who started Game 6 and went six innings. Everyone else, including Ryan Pressly, who has closed out three straight games, maybe even Zack Greinke, should be out in the bullpen ready to contribute in this decisive game.
But first, it'll come down to how Lance McCullers Jr. does. He was flat-out terrific in his Game 2 start, allowing just one earned run while striking out eleven over seven full innings (though he did allow the three unearned runs after the significant error in the first). If he can replicate that success and get into or possibly past the middle innings of this game while allowing zero to two runs, he will have done his job on Saturday.
Get ahead early
One thing that'll make Dusty Baker's job somewhat more comfortable, though in a Game 7 nothing truly is, is if his bats can start to distance themselves from the Rays early. There shouldn't be much of a shadow issue in this one, beginning at 7:37 PM Central, 5:37 local time in San Diego. That means Houston, who exploded in the middle innings in Game 6, might have the opportunity to do the same early in Game 7.
To do it, they'll have to put up runs on their former-teammate Charlie Morton, who shut them out over five frames in Game 2. Then, much like the Astros, the Rays will have just about everyone ready to come in, including the likes of Tyler Glasnow and Ryan Yarbrough, that they might not have as much success as they've had against the Rays bullpen in recent days. In a game with this high leverage, every baserunner will count and apply pressure, so the Astros need to reproduce Friday's success at the plate, albeit against potentially stiffer pitching.
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
“Another one!”- DJ Khaled
That's the first thing that came to mind when I heard the news of Tytus Howard being shut down for the season because of a knee injury. They've had more injuries on the offensive line this season than Nick Cannon has Father's Day cards. Almost every member of the offensive line has spent time on the injury report. Howard went down in the same game in which Juice Scruggs was finally on the active roster. He missed the first 10 games due to a hamstring injury. The irony of next man up has never been so in your face.
The other thing that came to mind was the soap opera As the World Turns.
Howard had just signed an extension this offseason. So did Laremy Tunsil and Shaq Mason. They drafted Juice Scruggs, and signed a few guys too. Those moves, along with other holdovers, were expected to fill out the depth chart. Then a rash of injuries struck. At one point, only one of the original five guys expected to start was playing! In fact, they beat the Steelers 30-6 with that backup offensive line!
One can't have the expectation of backups to perform as good as the starters. They're professionals and are on an NFL roster for a reason. However, the talent gap is evident. One thing coaching, technique, and preparation can't cover is lack of ability or talent. The Texans have done a good job of navigating the injury minefield this season. While the Howard injury will hurt, I have faith in the guys there still.
As of this writing, the Texans are in the eighth spot in the AFC playoff picture. The Steelers, Browns, and Colts are all in front of them at the fifth through seventh spots respectfully. They've beaten the Steelers already. They play the Browns on Christmas Eve and their starting quarterback is out for the season. The Colts are relying on the ghost of Gardner Minshew to steer their ship into the last game of the season vs. the Texans with a possible playoff trip on the line. The Broncos and Bills are the two teams immediately behind them. They play the Broncos this weekend. Even though they're on a hot streak, this is the same team that got 70 put on them by the Dolphins. The Bills are the old veteran boxer who still has some skill, but is now a stepping stone for up & comers.
To say this team should still make the playoffs would be an understatement in my opinion. I believe in them and what they have going on more than I believe in the teams I listed above. That includes teams around them in the playoff race that aren't on their schedule. The one thing that scares me a little moving forward is the sustainability of this line. When guys get up in age as athletes, it becomes harder to come back from injuries. The injuries also tend to occur more frequently when it's a knee, foot, ankle, shoulder, elbow, or another body part critical to blocking for C.J. Stroud.
I know they just re-signed three of those guys and drafted one they believe can be a starter, but depth and contingency plans are a way of life in the NFL. We see how important depth was this season. Why not plan ahead? Don't be surprised if the Texans spend valuable draft capital on the offensive line. By valuable, I'm talking about first through third or fourth rounders. Those are prime spots to draft quality offensive lineman. Whether day one starters or quality depth, those are the sweet spots. The only guy on the two deep depth chart for this offensive line that wasn't drafted in one of those rounds was George Fant, who was an undrafted rookie free agent. While I highly doubt they spend any significant free agency dollars on the group, I'm not totally ruling it out.
The bottom line is, this team will be okay on the line for the remainder of this season. The only way that doesn't happen, more injuries. Stroud is clearly the franchise guy. Protecting that investment is a top priority. I don't care about a number one receiver, or a stud stable or singular running back if the quarterback won't have time to get them the ball. If the pilot can't fly the plane, you know what happens. So making sure he's happy, healthy, and has a great crew is of the utmost importance.