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 Texans didn't have an answer for Derrick Henry. Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Romeo Crennel made a valorous call that might have costed the Houston Texans from winning their second consecutive game on Sunday. Up by seven with 1:50 left in the fourth quarter, Crennel decided to call a two-point conversion following Deshaun Watson's one-yard touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks.

During the two-point conversion, Watson had a look at an open Randall Cobb, but Titans' defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons got a hand on the ball to deflect the pass. The failed conversion allowed the Titans to take a 42-36 victory over the Texans inside Nissan Stadium. Tennessee scored 13 unanswered points, which included a seven-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill to A.J. Brown to send the game into overtime.

"I think I would do it again," Crennel said during his media availability on Monday. "You are on the road against a divisional opponent who is undefeated, and if you could get that two-point conversion — you shut the door on them. We had a guy open, but unfortunately, the ball got tipped and we did not make it. I would do it again because it was a good choice."

The decision to not kick the field goal caused somewhat of an uproar, but it is understandable why Crennel made the call. Crennel had faith in Watson to put the Texans in a position to close the game, similar to his 4th-and-4 call during last week's victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

In the end, Crennel's risky decisions could stem from the lack of faith he has in the Texans' depleted defense.

Houston's defense hit an all-time low against the Titans. They gave up a franchise-worst 601 total yards — with Derrick Henry accounting for 212 yards on 22 carries. But despite their struggles against the run, the Texans' secondary were just as faulty. They gave up a total of 338 yards through the air and allowed Tannehill to go 8-for-9 down the field during the Titans' final drive of regulation.

Had Houston's defense made a stop during the closing seconds of the fourth quarter, the Texans could have ended the game 2-0 under their interim head coach.

"I wanted to go ahead and get the two points — I felt like that would have put the game out of reach for them," Crennel said. "If we had gotten it, we would have been in much better shape. But we did not get it. We did not perform well in overtime, and they [Titans] won the game."

Following Sunday's heartbreaking loss, Texans safety Justin Reid said it best, "Had we converted on the two-point conversion, this would be a totally different conversation. So it is what it is."

Up next, the 1-5 Texans will look to bounce back from defeat against the 4-1 Green Bay Packers, inside NRG Stadium on Sunday. Kick-off is at 12:00 PM CT.

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