Winner takes all

ALCS Game 7 Preview: Astros vs. Rays

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:

Game Facts

When: Sautrday, October 17th, 7:37 PM Central.

Where: Petco Park - San Diego, California.

TV: TBS.

Streaming: Watch TBS App.

Pitching Matchup: Lance McCullers Jr. vs. Charlie Morton.

Series: tied 3-3.

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 6Final: Astros 7, Rays 4Framber Valdez (W) vs. Blake Snell (L)Rays
Game 7Sat 10/17, 7:37 PMLance McCullers Jr. vs. Charlie MortonRays

All games played at Petco Park.

Game Storylines

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

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1. Davis Mills had an up-and-down day under center Friday. One play saw Mills drop back and try to get rid of the ball as Jonathan Greenard was rushing him only to have Greenard leap up and intercept Mills for what would have been an interception returned for a score.

2. A few plays later Davis Mills showcased his short memory. Mills surveyed the field, looked off the safety, and pitched a strike to Brevin Jordan over the middle, wide open, for a touchdown.

3. Davis Mills doesn’t stack bad plays. It is rare to see multiple bad plays happen in a row and Mills be the cause, or a cause, of the play not working. When he misses something, he usually makes up for it the next play.

4. It was a makeshift offensive line on Friday. Max Scharping played a lot at left guard. Charlie Heck saw some snaps at left tackle while Laremy Tunsil took a breather. Veteran lineman Cedric Ogbuehi played some at right tackle. There was plenty of work emphasized on the rushing attack Friday. The offensive line was fine, nothing special. I would say slight edge to the defense overall.

5. Rookie Kenyon Green didn’t practice. Right tackle Tytus Howard didn’t practice either. Pro Football Network is reporting Tytus Howard is out with a positive Covid test. Kenyon Green was banged up last practice, but Lovie Smith expects both back in the coming days.

6.The offensive line had its hands full with the defensive line today. Jonathan Greenard made the above-mentioned play of the practice with an interception. It felt constantly like there was some level of success from the defensive line. Not to say they dominated, but I would think the defense is happy with their day.

7. Maliek Collins has been a nice player in camp. He looks a bit quicker than last year. Collins downplayed how many “close” plays he had last year citing that everyone knows the saying “close but no cigar.” I asked him if he expected a lot of cigars this year. He chuckled and said yes. Teammate Roy Lopez gushed about what he believes Collins can be for this team and called his teammate one of the best defensive tackles in the league.

8. I almost wonder if quiet Derek Stingley days are good days. Stingley wasn’t involved in a lot of plays, but I know Davis Mills saw him on Friday. Mills dropped back on one play and made a read to his left seeing Chris Moore. Stingley darted from coverage towards Moore causing Mills to move off Moore and head to Nico Collins for a score. Yes, the defense allowed a touchdown, but Stingley did his job.

9. Rookie safety Jalen Pitre is a “starting” safety for the team according to Lovie Smith. Pitre had an interception, depending on who you ask, in practice. It is clear the Texans trust him and have put a lot on his plate. I would expect to see a lot of the rookie safety, good or bad, this season.



10. Lovie Smith praised the team’s depth at linebacker earlier in camp. I scoffed a little at the notion, but there seems to be a new linebacker making a play each day. Christian Kirksey had a nice stop in the run game today. Kevin Pierre-Louis, who played very little last year, has flashed. There’s some depth here, despite my skepticism.

11. Ka'imi Fairbairn doesn’t have a challenger in camp this year. I believed this offseason should have seen at the very least someone to challenge the kicker heading into his seventh year in the league. He’s been solid in camp so far, but there have been some misses. It is tough to judge distance, but the team clearly has faith in him with no challenger in sight.

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