It's all or nothing in ALDS Game 5

Astros playoff report presented by APG&E: ALDS Game 5 preview

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The favorites to win it all now have one game to either win and continue their quest to a World Series win, or end their journey disappointingly early. After going ahead 2-0 in the series with back-to-back wins at home to start the series, the Astros went to Tropicana Field and dropped two straight to the Rays to even the series and force a winner-take-all Game 5.

The good news for the Astros: they'll be back at home where they have been dominant this year, and unlike in Game 4 where Houston had Justin Verlander on short rest, they have their other ace, Gerrit Cole, on regular rest in the decisive game. Despite Tampa Bay's recent success and credit to them for forcing the series to go this far, the Astros are still heavy favorites to pull out the win to complete the series. Here is a quick preview of Game 5:

Game Facts

When: Thursday, 6:07 p.m Central.

Where: Minute Maid Park - Houston, Texas.

TV: FS1.

Streaming: Fox Sports App.

Pitching matchup: Gerrit Cole vs. Tyler Glasnow.

Series: tied 2-2.

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 3Rays 10, Astros 3Tropicana Field, St. PetersburgGreinke (L) vs Morton (W)
Game 4Rays 4, Astros 1Tropicana Field, St. PetersburgJustin Verlander (L) vs. Diego Castillo (ND)
Game 5Thursday 10/10, 6:07 PMMinute Maid Park, HoustonGerrit Cole vs. Tyler Glasnow

Game Storylines

Can Cole do it again?

Gerrit Cole has not earned a loss since May 22 of this year. That's simply incredible. Since that game, he has been the most dominant pitcher in baseball, period. That was true in Game 2, where he set a franchise postseason record with fifteen strikeouts. If anyone can stifle a team's momentum, which has just avoided elimination in two-straight games, it's him.

If Cole manages to get deep into the game, the Astros will be in great shape by having a mostly fresh Ryan Pressly and Roberto Osuna, along with Will Harris, who has been impressive in his appearances in this series which can provide a lights-out seventh, eighth, and ninth innings. No matter how the pitching lines go into the books, though, it will mean nothing if they cannot get enough run support behind them to get the win.

It all comes down to this

Yes, the Astros are favorites to win this game because they're at home and have Gerrit Cole. Still, anything can happen in a Game 5, and like the Astros and other teams have found out the hard way in this early postseason, it's often the team that gets hot first that catches fire and comes out with the win. To that point, it will be important for George Springer, who broke out of his ALDS slump with a 2-for-4 game in Game 4, to try and get the offense going when they come to the plate in the bottom of the first.

The Astros cannot afford to let the Rays build momentum in this game; if they can get ahead early and get the faithful, rowdy crowd at Minute Maid Park behind them in the first few innings, that could be the difference in the game. It won't be easy against this Tampa Bay pitching staff, though, who is one of the best in the league. Should they work over Tyler Glasnow and force him out earlier than the Rays would like, the matchup against Tampa Bay's relievers is still formidable. While a blowout win would be impressive, the Astros would do just as well to capitalize on any scoring opportunity they find themselves in against this stingy set of pitchers.

When you add all the factors up, other than having lost two in a row, there is simply too much in favor of the Astros for them to lose this game. Still, this is playoff baseball, and things rarely go as expected. Houston will need a combination of talent, execution, and a little bit of luck to put this series to rest and move on to the ALCS against the Yankees.

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 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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