It's finally time for October baseball

Astros playoff report presented by APG&E: ALDS Game 1 Preview

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The regular season is over. Individual performances and award hunting is no longer of concern. Now, the Astros turn their attention to being the best group of players and taking each series one game at a time on the quest for the eleven wins and three series victories needed to win their second World Series in three years.

It starts on Friday afternoon with Game 1 of the ALDS against the Wild Card-winning Rays who are coming off a dominant win against the A's in Oakland on Wednesday night. Here is a quick preview of the first game in this best-of-five set:

Game Facts

When: Friday, 1:05 p.m.

Where: Minute Maid Park - Houston, Texas.

TV: FS1.

Streaming: Fox Sports App.

Pitching matchup: Justin Verlander vs. Tyler Glasnow.

Series: Tied 0-0.

Series schedule

Date & Time (Central) Location Pitching matchup
Game 1Fri 10/4, 1:05 PMMinute Maid Park, Houston Verlander vs. Glasnow
Game 2Sat 10/5, 8:07 PMMinute Maid Park, Houston Cole vs. Snell+
Game 3Mon 10/7, TBDTropicana Field, St. Petersburg Greinke vs Morton+
Game 4*Tuesday 10/8, TBDTropicana Field, St. Petersburg TBD vs. TBD
Game 5*Thursday 10/10, TBDMinute Maid Park, Houston TBD vs. TBD

* If necessary.
+ Projected starters.

Game Storylines

Houston has the pitching advantage

With the Rays having to use Charlie Morton in the win-or-go-home game on Wednesday night, that shifts the pitching advantage squarely to Houston in terms of the two starters. While Tyler Glasnow certainly has high upside, he is expected to be on a limited pitch count as he continues to work his way back to full strength after a forearm injury sidelined him from May 10th through early September.

Justin Verlander, meanwhile, last pitched on Saturday in his last start of the regular season, and will be rested and ready to go as long as he can. While the Rays may have to get into their bullpen earlier than the Astros expect to, that does not lower the difficulty for Houston's bats. Tampa Bay's relievers are stout and will be a good matchup with the Astros offense all series.

The first taste of home-field advantage in pivotal Game 1

Despite being assigned the earliest game of the slate, it won't sway Astros fans from packing Minute Maid Park. The rowdy crowd and playoff atmosphere will help make a team that went 60-21 at home in 2019 even harder to beat. Although the playoffs are a different animal, starting this series in Houston could be essential for the Astros, who won a series 2-1 here late August after falling 3-1 at Tropicana Field to begin the season.

Every playoff game is important, which goes without saying. Nonetheless, it will be important for Houston to take control of this game early so that they can stop Tampa Bay's momentum they gained in the Wild Card game and get a quick 1-0 lead in this series. That would give them four chances to win two more games, with a split of those games at home and away.

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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The Rockets may be the smartest guys in the room. Or the cheapest

The Rockets have their new head coach. Composite photo by Brandon Strange

On Wednesday afternoon, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news that the Rockets' coaching search had come to an end finally. The front office tabbed Mavericks assistant Stephen Silas as the successor to Mike D'Antoni, beating out former Rockets head coach Jeff Van Gundy and current Rockets assistant John Lucas.

Knee jerk reaction?

I'm not mad at it. I expected Jeff Van Gundy to be the next hire, but maybe that was just nostalgia clouding my judgment. Either way, the Silas hire should be viewed optimistically. He's been highly regarded for some time around the league as an inventive mind that comes from basketball pedigree and has worked with big-name guards in prior stops around the league. If the Rockets didn't grab him, it was only a matter of time before another team gave him a shot.

Now there are two very distinct ways to look at this hire:

The first is that the Rockets, in spite of being one of the last teams to fill their coaching vacancy, are the smartest kids in the room. Every team is looking for the next version of what the Celtics found in their current head coach, Brad Stevens; a young brilliant coach that just needed a team to give him a shot. Hired at 37 from the college ranks, Stevens endured one losing season (his first) and has since guided the Celtics to six playoff appearances, to include three conference finals appearances. Not bad, considering he was up against LeBron James for most of those.

That is what it looks like the Rockets are trying to go for. Now at 47, Silas probably won't be mistaken for a wunderkind, but compared to 69-year-old D'Antoni, he might as well be announcing his hire on Tik Tok. If it works out, the Rockets will have once again been one step ahead of the league with the hiring of their innovative new coach.

The other way to look at the Silas hire is a little less rosy.

While Silas is only 47, he's also been an assistant in the league since he was 27. The positive spin on his resume is that he's worked with star players the likes of Kemba Walker, LeBron James, and Stephen Curry. The reality is that he worked with them while they were very young in their careers, and worked on teams like the Cavaliers, Bobcats/Hornets, Wizards, and Warriors (when they were bad). Until the last two seasons working with Luka Doncic on the Mavericks, there hasn't been a lot of success following Silas. That's not necessarily an indictment since he was an assistant, but it's not exactly a sparkling pedigree.

So while this could be a brilliant hire, at the moment, it has all of the markings of the cheaper hire. As I've mentioned before, Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta has been quite vocal about the financial impact that COVID-19 has had on his portfolio. Clips and quotes moaning and groaning about losing money are not typically precursors to an owner gearing up to make a big financial investment in the front office of a sports team that he can't sell tickets for anyone to come see. If in fact, money factored in more than fit, it would make sense that the Rockets would forego a coach like Van Gundy, whose previous head coaching experience would automatically command a higher starting price. We'll, of course, have to wait and see what the actual contract figures are once released.

It could be one. It could be the other. It could be both. Hopefully it translates into wins either way.

One thing that's for certain though is that Silas needs to take some pointers from Russell Westbrook and James Harden before he steps out courtside in any more of those TJ Maxx suits, circa 2000. Big boy job means big boy suits.

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