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.

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans loss rests squarely on this decision

Another tough loss for the Texans. Photo by Getty Images.

There are times in which you gamble and it pays off. Then there are times in which you gamble and lose badly. Today was definitely the latter. The Texans fell to the Titans 42-36 in an overtime thriller. The loss rests squarely on the head of interim head coach Romeo Crennel and his ill-timed gambling at the end of the game.

It started with the gamble to go for it on 4th&1 on the Titans' 35-yard line with 4:37 left in the game. That move said two things: A) we're on the road at 1-4 against the 4-0 division leader up by one point so let's try to end this, or B) I don't trust our kicker to make a 53-yard field goal. They converted because David Johnson is good for slamming into the backs of the offensive line for at least a yard or three. The next gamble came eight plays later. It was 4th & Goal from the 1-yard line. The play call was a pass. Deshaun Watson found Randall Cobb after scrambling to extend the play and putting the ball in a tight window on the sideline where only Cobb could catch it. Here's where I started to have a problem with the gambling.

That touchdown made it 36-29 in favor of the Texans. Up by seven with less than two minutes left in the game, the "right" call would be to kick the extra point to potentially go up by eight. That forces the opposition to have to score a touchdown and convert a two point conversion in order to tie the game. Alas...Crennel gambled by trying to force things, went for two, and came up short. Kenny Rogers once said: You've got to know when to hold 'em. Know when to fold 'em. Know when to walk away. Know when to run.

The porous defense, however, gave up the game tying touchdown and extra point with four seconds left to send the game into overtime. From there, the Titans got the ball in overtime and drove down the field for the game winning score. A team that played a game on Tuesday evening bullied a team on Sunday at noon. Let that sink in. Sure, Derrick Henry is a linebacker playing running back, but the amount of yards you gave up to him was unacceptable.

Not kicking that extra point to go up by eight with less than two minutes left (1:50 to be exact) was the key coaching move that I feel cost them the game. There's no coming back from blunders like that when you're now 1-5 and would need to go at least 8-2 with tons of help down the stretch to have an outside shot at the newly created seventh spot in the playoffs. You had the division leader down and were in position to get a division win to go to 2-4. Instead, you're now in position to help the Dolphins continue to improve their franchise from the boneheaded decisions Bill O'Brien made before his exit. Crennel and staff coached a good game, until the end when it mattered most. With an extra playoff spot available, they still have an outside shot to make it, but it'll be difficult.

This city and fanbase deserve better. One day, they'll get it and get a winner. Until then unfortunately, they'll have to settle for purgatory, disappointment, and mediocrity. Hold tight. I see good things coming one day Houston football fans.

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