The Astros are going for the clean sweep

Astros playoff report presented by APG&E: ALDS Game 3 preview

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

With the incredible start by Gerrit Cole fueling them to a win on Saturday night, the Astros are now in the driver's seat with a 2-0 lead in the ALDS against the Rays. Game 3 may be the most challenging yet for Houston, with the series shifting to Tampa Bay's home stadium at Tropicana Field, and going up against their toughest starting pitcher in Charlie Morton.

Still, Houston is an understandable favorite to win the game and make it a clean sweep to advance to the ALCS. Here is a quick rundown of how and what to watch for in Game 3 on Monday afternoon:

Game Facts

When: Monday, 12:05 p.m Central.

Where: Tropicana Field - St. Petersburg, Florida.

TV: MLB Network.

Streaming: MLB.TV (Subscription or Cable Login Required)

Pitching matchup: Zack Greinke vs. Charlie Morton.

Series: HOU leads 2-0.

Series schedule

Date & Time (Central)LocationPitching matchup
Game 1Astros 6, Rays 2Minute Maid Park, HoustonVerlander (W) vs. Glasnow (L)
Game 2Astros 3, Rays 1Minute Maid Park, HoustonCole (W) vs. Snell (L)
Game 3Monday 10/7, 12:05 PMTropicana Field, St. PetersburgGreinke vs Morton
Game 4*Tuesday 10/8, TBDTropicana Field, St. PetersburgTBD vs. TBD
Game 5*Thursday 10/10, TBDMinute Maid Park, HoustonTBD vs. TBD

* If necessary.

Game Storylines

Time for Greinke to show that the trade was worth it

While Houston's trade for Zack Greinke was not solely to improve their playoff chances in 2019, but rather to add a piece for the next couple of seasons, bringing him in to be a part of the playoff rotation and aid in playoff success was a large part of the consideration. He will be well-rested, having last pitched on September 25th in Seattle when he brought a no-hitter into the ninth inning against the Mariners.

However, Greinke has a career 3-4 record and 4.03 ERA in the postseason, with his most recent appearances in 2017 with the Diamondbacks where he had a rough 3.2 inning, four-run start in the Wild Card game that Arizona would end up winning, then followed that with a five-inning, three-run loss to the Dodgers in the NLDS. Also, he faced this Rays team back on August 29th in Houston, a game where they tagged him with five earned runs, including two homers, over five and two-thirds innings of work. While Greinke may have the strikeout numbers of Justin Verlander or Gerrit Cole, he will still need to bring his A-game to induce soft contact and easy outs to help the Astros win this ALDS.

Chance for ALDS Sweep in back-to-back seasons

If they do clinch the sweep on Monday afternoon, that will make it two-straight years where the Astros have done so, also winning the ALDS in three-straight games against the Indians in 2018. They would also improve to 9-1 in ALDS games over the last three years, having lost just one game against the Red Sox in the 2017 series before clinching it 3-1 in Game 4. To do so, they'll have to go through former teammate Charlie Morton.

While Houston was able to get after Morton for six runs over four innings on August 27th, that game was in Houston. If you rewind to the first series of the 2019 season, the Astros had a tough offensive series at Tropicana field, including losing to Morton, who held them to two runs over five innings. The Astros have had notable struggles in St. Petersburg; when you look at the last three years combined as visitors in that ballpark, they have gone 48-for-355 at the plate collectively, a paltry .211 average (according to FanGraphs). They will need to erase those struggles from their memory and instead focus on replicating the offensive success that has gotten them to this position.

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

The Astros playoff report is presented by APG&E.

Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

In what was expected to be a fierce pitcher's duel, Game 1 of the 2019 World Series saw some big offensive moments in the early innings as the Nationals erased an early 2-0 deficit with five unanswered runs to take a 5-2 lead against Gerrit Cole. They would hold on to that lead and take Game 1 against the Astros, 5-4. Washington's star of the night was Juan Soto, who went 3-for-4 with three RBIs, including a solo home run to fuel the Nationals to a 1-0 series lead. Here is a recap of the game:

Final Score: Nationals 5, Astros 4.

Series: Nationals lead 1-0.

Winning Pitcher: Max Scherzer.

Losing Pitcher: Gerrit Cole.

Astros take an early lead

Although the Nationals would record the first hit of the night on a leadoff single in the top of the inning, it would be the Astros who would get the first runs of the night in the bottom of the first inning. George Springer worked a leadoff walk to start the frame, followed by Jose Altuve, who drilled a single to put two on base. Both would advance a base after a wild pitch to move Springer to third, followed by a steal by Altuve, then Yuli Gurriel drove them in on a two-RBI double off the left-center field wall to give Houston the quick 2-0 lead.

The Nationals immediately cut the lead in half in the top of the second, getting a solo home run by Ryan Zimmerman off of Gerrit Cole to straightaway center-field to make it a 2-1 game. The Astros threatened to extend their lead in the bottom of the third after getting runners on second and third with two outs on a bloop single that fell in by Gurriel, but a strikeout by Carlos Correa would end the inning.

Nationals roar back with five unanswered runs

The Nationals were able to fully erase the 2-0 deficit in the top of the fourth. It came on the second solo home run allowed by Gerrit Cole on the night, this one a leadoff homer to Juan Soto to tie the game. Yordan Alvarez recorded a much-needed hit considering his playoff slump to lead off the bottom of the fourth and should have moved to second after a missed catcher's interference against Josh Reddick instead resulted in Reddick recording the second out of the inning.

George Springer worked a walk next as Houston continued to work Max Scherzer into lengthy at-bats, but both runners would be left stranded as Scherzer got out of another jam. Cole encountered jam of his own in the top of the fifth, issuing his first walk to start the inning followed by a single to put two runners on. After getting an out, Cole would allow an RBI-single as Washington took their first lead at 3-2. With two outs in the inning, Juan Soto would strike again, this time a two-RBI double to extend the Nationals' lead to 5-2 before the inning was over.

Washington goes to their bullpen in the sixth while Cole finishes seven

After a scoreless top of the sixth by Cole, the Nationals moved to another pitcher, bringing in Patrick Corbin to try and hold on to Washington's lead. Corbin was as a potential Game 3 starter, but with the Nationals bullpen having notable struggles, they opted instead to go to his strong arm to try and hold on to get a Game 1 road win, potentially keeping him available for a Game 4 start. He would record a scoreless frame, erasing a one-out single by Yordan Alvarez to keep it a 5-2 deficit for Houston heading to the seventh.

Gerrit Cole would throw one more inning before he was done for the night, getting a 1-2-3 top of the seventh. His final line was not what many expected would it would be, recording his worst start of the postseason: 7.0 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 2 HR.

Nationals hold on for Game 1 win

Tanner Rainey was the next reliever for the Nationals, but George Springer welcomed him with a solo home run to lead off the bottom of the seventh to trim the lead to 5-3. Rainey would then allow back-to-back one-out walks, prompting the move to another reliever for Washington. It would be Daniel Hudson who would come in and get the second out before an infield single loaded the bases for Yordan Alvarez, who would strikeout to end the threat.

First out of Houston's bullpen was Will Harris in the top of the eighth, and he would erase a one-out single by Soto to keep it a two-run game. Kyle Tucker led off the bottom of the eighth with a pinch-hit single against Hudson, who remained in the game for Washington. Tucker would move to second by tagging on a long flyout, then score on an RBI-double by Springer that was mere feet from being a game-tying home run, but instead left the tying run on second base with one out and the score now 5-4. After a flyout by Altuve, the Nationals moved to Sean Doolittle to face Michael Brantley, and Doolittle would win that battle to keep it a one-run game.

Joe Smith would come in for the top of the ninth to try and keep it a one-run game and give Houston a chance to tie or walk it off in the bottom half of the inning. Smith did his job, keeping the Nationals off the board. Doolittle would face the middle of Houston's order in the bottom of the ninth and retired the Astros in order to finish off Houston's Game 1 loss.

Up Next: Game 2 of the 2019 World Series will start at 7:07 PM Central on Wednesday from Minute Maid Park in Houston. It offers another terrific pitching matchup on paper with Justin Verlander for the Astros going up against Stephen Strasburg for the Nationals.

The Astros playoff report is presented by APG&E.

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