Rays avoid elimination and force a Game 4 with the Astros

Astros playoff report presented by APG&E: Astros drop ALDS Game 3 with 10-3 loss to Rays

Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Houston looked in control after the first inning of Monday's ALDS Game 3, having forced Charlie Morton to throw over thirty pitches while allowing a solo home run to Jose Altuve. In the bottom of the inning, Zack Greinke had a sharp 1-2-3 frame. Things would deteriorate quickly, though, as Greinke would be hit around en route to a disappointing day, allowing the Rays to win Game 3 by a score of 10-3 and force a Game 4 on Tuesday.

Final Score: Rays 10, Astros 3.

Series: HOU leads 2-1.

Winning Pitcher: Charlie Morton.

Losing Pitcher: Zack Greinke.

Altuve gives Houston an early spark

With an ALDS series sweep in reach, Jose Altuve provided the first highlight of the day by hammering a pitch from Charlie Morton to center field for a solo home run to put the Astros ahead 1-0 in the top of the first. After the Rays would get a big three-run go-ahead home run in the bottom of the second, Altuve tried to shift the momentum back Houston's way with a leadoff double in the top of the third but would get left stranded.

Greinke doesn't meet expectations 

Zack Greinke looked like he may be in for a very successful day after his nine-pitch first inning with two strikeouts. That changed, however, in the bottom of the second as Greinke would allow a one-out single then hit a batter with two outs, putting two on base for a huge home run by Kevin Kiermaier to give the Rays a 3-1 lead.

After back-to-back strikeouts to start the bottom of the third to get back on track, Greinke would make another mistake to Ji-Man Choi, who would extend the lead to 4-1 with a solo home run. Brandon Lowe would join in on the home run barrage, leading off the bottom of the fourth with another to push the lead to four runs at 5-1. Greinke would get two outs into the fourth before allowing a walk to prompt A.J. Hinch out of the dugout to make a call to the bullpen for Hector Rondon. Greinke's final line: 3.2 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 3 HR.

Rays continue to pour it on and force a Game 4

Rondon would only face one batter, and that would result in a single to put runners on first and second with two outs. The Astros would make another call to the bullpen, this time for Wade Miley. Miley did not look any better in this appearance than his starts in a disappointing September, allowing a two-RBI double then RBI-single to his first two batters, blowing the game open to 8-1 before he could get out of the inning.

With a chance to hit against Tampa Bay's bullpen in the top of the sixth after Charlie Morton's day was complete, the Astros took advantage by getting two runners on base for a two-RBI single by Yuli Gurriel to trim the lead to 8-3. The Rays would get one of those back immediately against Miley in the bottom of the inning, hitting a leadoff solo home run to push the lead back to 9-3.

Miley would continue on the mound and get into the bottom of the seventh inning before an error and single put two runners on with one out, resulting in another call to the bullpen to bring in Joe Smith. He would allow a sacrifice fly for the second out, extending Tampa Bay's lead to 10-3 before finishing the frame.

That score would go final as the Rays bullpen would hold the Astros to their three runs, avoiding elimination and forcing a Game 4 at Tropicana Field on Tuesday.

Up Next: Game 4 of the ALDS will be on Tuesday. The start time of the game will depend on the outcome of the Twins and Yankees ALDS Game 3 on Monday night. If the Yankees sweep, the Astros and Rays would be the lone game of the day and start at 6:07 PM Central. If the Twins force a Game 4, then the Houston/Tampa Bay Game 4 would get underway at 3:15 PM Central. The Astros are expected to trust the ball with Jose Urquidy to start Game 4, while the Rays have not yet announced who they will send to the mound.

** UPDATE: The Astros have announced Justin Verlander as the starter for Tuesday's Game 4. He will pitch on three-days rest after a 100-pitch outing in Game 1 this past Friday.

The Astros playoff report is presented by APG&E.

Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan

What a week.The Rockets look terrible in losing consecutive games to losing teams, and that doesn't register as the tiniest ripple in the week's pond of Houston sports woe. Pond? More like ocean.

The Astros are irrefutably confirmed for all-time as cheaters and liars over a multi-season period. Jim Crane is no idiot, but specifically on the issue of whether the Astros' 2017 World Series championship is tainted, Jim Crane is an idiot if he really thinks it is not. Astro lackeys, toadies, and homers should stop the "a bunch of other teams did it too!" and "Mike Fiers is an a-hole" lameness. The Astros were guilty, caught, and deserved to get hammered. If/when others are proven as guilty as the Astros, so should they be hammered.

So after Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred's lowering of a rightful boom, and then Jim Crane firing Jeff Luhnow and A.J. Hinch, what does it all mean for the 2020 Astros? It's a wow of a story, but really not a crisis. The loss of Gerrit Cole is much more meaningful. Luhnow's shoes are fairly easily filled for this season. Hence for now, Crane himself will head up baseball operations. The Astros weren't and aren't pursuing any meaningful free agents or major trades. Before his demise Luhnow finished the financial corner cutting moves that filled out the roster.

It's not as if Luhnow's personal expertise made all scouting, drafting, and signing decisions. And now the Astros have no first or second round pick to make this June anyway. 30 year old Pete Putila is the ranking baseball guy still employed by the club, but he is a branch of the Luhnow tree. If Crane's goal is the "housecleaning" he termed the Luhnow and Hinch firings as being, how can he promote a Luhnow lieutenant? Every front office in baseball has shrewd analytic minds, looking to move up. Crane can easily hire one of them.

As for field manager, Hinch was a great handler of people (well….with one kind of important exception) but this roster is strong enough to operate on autopilot to a good extent. Bench coach Joe Espada is highly regarded and been a finalist for other managerial gigs. But he was on Hinch's staff when cheating was ongoing in 2018. That seems pretty much disqualifying. Two known interviewees are quality options, though neither has skippered a team to the World Series. Buck Showalter was always extremely highly regarded, John Gibbons steered the Blue Jays to back-to-back American League Championship Series appearances in 2015 and 2016. Between those two I'd lean Showalter but either would be fine.

Remember The Texans

How thankful are Bill O'Brien and the Texans for the Astros' mess grabbing all the headlines not even 24 hours after the Texans' collapse in Kansas City? It's almost impossible to get blown out of an NFL game in which you lead 24-nothing. Almost. The Texans pulled it off! Won't that cute little AFC South Champion banner be extra cute when it hangs next season? Hangs like a dead man from a noose.

As I put it last week, the Chiefs' offense is better than the Texans' offense, the Chiefs' defense better than the Texans' defense, and the Chiefs' coaching better than the Texans' coaching. But the way the game played out was still preposterous.

If Travis Kelce had beaten Lonnie Johnson any worse than he did Johnson's name should have been legally changed to Rented Mule. J.J. Watt was essentially a zero. No tackles, no assists on tackles, no sacks, no quarterback hits. Are you going to pay 15 and a half million dollars to a 31 year old Watt after his three major injuries in the last four seasons. That's a yes.

At least we have clarity that the Texans must dedicate their first round pick to a pass rusher or a defensive back. Wait, they don't have a first round pick. Well, in 2021 then. Wait. Bill O'Brien traded that away too. Speaking of O'Brien…

Opting for the field goal on fourth and one up 21-0 early second quarter was not indefensible. However, O'Brien's explanation for doing so was pitiful. The fake punt? Most agree, dumb.But not absolutely indefensible. This was the O'Brien Is Not Fit For Command moment of the game: He needed to use a timeout, with 11:45 left in the fourth quarter, the Texans down 17, facing fourth and fourth and four, in Chiefs' territory, to decide to go for the first down rather than punt. A cinder block could have displayed the same game management IQ. O'Brien has three seasons left on his contract. Unless Cal McNair takes a decidedly different tack than his father did, O'Brien's job is as safe as any Supreme Court Justice's.

Speaking of Cal, since the loss he's been spotted as often and been as vocal this week as Alex Bregman.

Buzzer Beaters

1. So, if guaranteed the truth: For a million dollars is your bet Altuve was wearing something or not? 2. Alex Cora should be banned from ever again managing a Major League team. 3. Famous "scandals": Bronze-Teapot Dome Silver-Patty Smyth fronted band, had big hit with Goodbye to You Gold-Kerry Washington and the TV show.

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