ALCS PREVIEW

Here's how the Astros stack up with the Rays

Photo by Getty Images.

PROBABLE STARTERS

Sun, Oct. 11 - HOU: Framber Valdez vs. TB: Blake Snell

Mon, Ott. 12 - HOU: Lance McCullers Jr. vs. TB: TBD

REST OF SERIES TBD

STORYLINES

  • Rays Rematch - The Astros defeated the Rays in five games in the ALDS last year. It was a close series, as the home team won each game. Home field advantage is a moot point this year due to the neutral site, but the Astros no longer have Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Yordan Alvarez, Roberto Osuna, and more available to them as they did last year. Conversely, the Rays have seemingly only gotten better on paper.
  • Contrasting Styles - The Rays and Astros operate in two totally different ways offensively. The Astros were dead last in MLB in strikeouts, while the Rays struck out the most. It's Houston's greatest advantage heading into the series. If the power stroke the Astros have had in the postseason travels with them to San Diego, the offense should be able to put pressure on Tampa Bay. The Astros may have the edge offensively, but the Rays certainly have the edge on the mound. The Rays outperformed the Astros in nearly every pitching metric, and the lack of off days highlights the importance of depth, which the Rays have and the Astros don't.
  • Battle of the Scouting Reports - The Houston Astros new General Manager was hired away from the Tampa Bay Rays, where he spent the last 14 years of his life. James Click knows the ins-and-outs of the Rays, and it's certainly an advantage. It'll be important for the Astros front office and Dusty Baker to be on the same page and optimize scouting reports. A bungled decision to use Deivi Garcia as an opener in game two with J.A. Happ as a follower was the difference between the Yankees winning and losing that series. The Rays front office is always prepared, and they'll undoubtedly have some interesting wrinkles to throw Houston's way.


PREDICTION

The Astros will defeat the Rays in six games. No team that strikes out as often as the Rays do will be a legitimate World Series contender. While the Rays pitching staff is better, the Astros staff isn't as far behind as it seems on the surface. The Astros offense will be able to put pressure on the Rays, while the Rays will be hoping for big swings.

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The Astros will look to bounce back after a tough week. Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images.

After a 6-3 record to start the season, the Houston Astros had a tumultuous week to say the least. They were swept by the Tigers, lost 2 of 3 games to the Seattle Mariners and placed five players on the COVID injured list.

The Tigers' new manager AJ Hinch returned to Minute Maid Park for the first time since the Astros let him go after the cheating scandal in early 2020.

The Tigers swept the Astros and outscored them 20-8 over their three matchups.

Before the 3rd game of the series, the Astros found out they would be without five players on their active roster. Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado and Robel Garcia were all placed on the COVID-19 injury reserved list.

"It's hard on the team but you have to carry on. The show must go on," manager Dusty Baker said. "And it went on today with some younger players we have here."

Garrett Stubbs, Taylor Jones and Abraham Toro were called up as well as Alex De Goti and Ronnie Dawson who made their major league debuts last week.

The Tigers were able to score runs early on Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers and Jake Odorizzi (who made his Astros debut) and none of these starters lasted more than five innings in the outings.

Yuli Gurriel was the one Astros bright spot against the Tigers as he had 7 hits and drove in 2 runs. He is still continuing to hit the ball consistently as he finished the series with a .429 batting average.

After a 1-5 home stand the Astros looked to bounce back on the road against the division leading Seattle Mariners (you read that correctly).

Friday night proved to be the Astros' best offensive performance since their home opener on April 8th against the A's.

They scored five runs on Yusei Kikuchi through 7 innings behind good hitting from Aledmys Diaz, Chas McCormick and De Goti who drove in two runs on his first major league hit.

The Astros had a 5-2 lead at this point, but Seattle was able to score 4 unanswered to win the game.

Bryan Abreu, Blake Taylor and Ryne Stanek were credited with those four runs.

Ryan Pressly tried to clean up the bottom of the 9th inning after Stanek put the first two batters on base. His effort was unsuccessfully as Ty France hit a game-ending single that scored J.P. Crawford from second to secure a Mariners victory.

Saturday was the best game of the week for the Astros as they finally broke their six-game losing streak.

After failing to pitch more than five innings on Monday against the Tigers, Zack Greinke threw eight shutout innings with 91 pitches.

He struck out six batters and gave up only 4 hits.

"That's what aces do," Astros manager Dusty Baker said. "Guys like (Greinke) ... they stop the bleeding and we're about bled out."

Greinke finished the game with 2,705 career strikeouts. He is now third amongst active players in strikeouts behind Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander.

Ryan Pressly got some redemption too as he threw a perfect 9th inning giving him his first save of the year.

The Astros won this game 1-0 as Taylor Jones drove in the game's only run with an RBI single.

Sunday's game ended the Astros week with a whimper, as the Mariners bested Houston 7-2.

Jake Odorizzi got off to a good start, but he gave up three hits and was pulled after Mitch Haniger's fifth-inning triple made it a 3-2 lead over the Astros.

Odorizzi is now (0-2) with a 10.57 ERA after two starts with the Astros.

Houston's offensive woes continued Sunday, as Aledmys Díaz had their only hit, an RBI double in the second inning that fell in when outfielder José Marmolejos lost the ball in the sun.

"It's tough to take when you only got one hit and the one hit we got was lost in the sun," Baker said.

UP NEXT: The Astros (7-8) will finish their road trip with a two game series against the Rockies who have the worst record in the league (4-12) before starting an eight-game homestead.

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