The Pallilog

Rays are a solid team, but Astros should advance

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The Astros start their postseason 11 wins away from putting a glorious ribbon around what would rank as one of the greatest single seasons in Major League Baseball history. Last year the Red Sox finished off their claim, winning 108 regular season games then dethroning the Astros en route to winning the World Series. The 107 win Astros open their American League Division Series as big favorites against Tampa Bay, but the Rays are no million to one shot.

Any 96 win team should be taken seriously, even though the lone Ray who would crack the Astro lineup is outfielder Austin Meadows. For context, his September was as good as Alex Bregman's, his season better than Yuli Gurriel's. Overall though the Rays have a middling offense. Their four home run clubbing of Oakland in the Wild Card game was stout, but for the season the Rays finished ninth of 15 AL teams in runs scored. Their pitching is way better than middling. The Rays led the AL in earned run average (3.65 to the Astros' 3.66), and that's with pitching more than 20 percent of their innings against the Yankees and Red Sox. Manager Kevin Cash maneuvers a deep and versatile bullpen.

The Astros are of course extremely confident with Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole starting games one and two. Rays' game one starter Tyler Glasnow has a better ERA than both. Big catch: Glasnow's 1.78 was compiled over only 12 starts. He was awesome the first month plus of the season before a forearm injury sidelined him for almost four months. Over the last three of his four comeback appearances Glasnow looked fantastic. He is capable of stifling the Astro attack, but probably for no more than five innings. Lord knows Verlander had numerous outings with puny run support this season. Cole draws last year's AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell. Like Glasnow Snell missed a chunk of the season to injury. Unlike Glasnow, Snell did not look good in his most recent outings.

The Astros understandably wouldn't guarantee Charlie Morton one year 17.9 million dollars so he signed with the Rays for two years 30 mil. The Astros in July traded for Zack Greinke who costs them more than 20 mil per season (pro rata this year, and the next two if not traded). Game three matchup in St. Petersburg: Greinke vs. Morton.

It will be portrayed as a stunning upset if the Rays deny the Astros a third straight American League Championship Series appearance. It would not be a stunning upset. Well, the Astros getting swept would be stunning. "Baseball happens" is really the only reason to pick the Rays. That's no way to hazard a guess. Astros in three.

The Yankees-Twins series is more evenly matched on paper. The form chart makes it a home run derby. The Twins shattered the single season homer record the Yankees set last season (267) by hitting 307. The Yankees hit 306. The Astros were third with 288.

And then there is the Texans...

Off all the matchups on the week five NFL schedule, Texans-Falcons is certainly one of them. The Texans are 2-2 after their pitiful offensive home showing in the loss to Carolina, but that's good for a share of first (and a share of last) in the AFC South. The Falcons' season is in much worse shape at 1-3, playing in an NFC South with a Saints' squad likely to win at least 10 games.

Bill O'Brien is a mediocre head coach, who produces mediocre teams. O'Brien is not a godawful head coach, though on average it's probably about every other game that he commits game or clock management somewhere from questionable to absurd. If the Texans' goal is to avoid having a bottom of the barrel coach more so than seeking greatness, that's just sad. The former isn't really their goal but it may as well be given the status quo. Maybe some year while O'Brien is still on the job the Texans break out of the mediocrity muck and look like a bonafide contender. Anyone not on the Texans' payroll believe that likely? How many ON the Texans' payroll truly believe that likely?

As an alleged creative offensive mind, O'Brien is calling the shots for one of the five teams to already twice this season fail to score 14 points in a game. The Texans pulling it off in both their home games. The Jaguars and Panthers have good defenses but if you don't score 14 points, your offense stunk like rotten eggs. Add in that the Jaguars and Panthers each came to town down one of their best defensive linemen, and a starting cornerback.

The Falcons are another of the teams with two sub-14 point offensive outputs. The Texans better win Sunday since next week they face their most likely loss of the season. At Kansas City.

Last season the Texans padded their fool's gold 11-5 record by beating a bunch of bad and/or backup quarterbacks. They've already faced two backups this season, and sit 2-2. But you cynic you, another division championship banner could be in the Texans' future.

​Buzzer Beaters

1. In the 162 game schedule era (1961-) only eight teams won more than the Astros' 107 this year. Only four of those eight won the World Series. 2. Another lackluster college football schedule this week. Next week: Texas-Oklahoma, Alabama at Texas A&M. 3. Most likely winners of the other Division Series: Bronze-Yankees Silver-Dodgers Gold-Cardinals


Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

In what was expected to be a fierce pitcher's duel, Game 1 of the 2019 World Series saw some big offensive moments in the early innings as the Nationals erased an early 2-0 deficit with five unanswered runs to take a 5-2 lead against Gerrit Cole. They would hold on to that lead and take Game 1 against the Astros, 5-4. Washington's star of the night was Juan Soto, who went 3-for-4 with three RBIs, including a solo home run to fuel the Nationals to a 1-0 series lead. Here is a recap of the game:

Final Score: Nationals 5, Astros 4.

Series: Nationals lead 1-0.

Winning Pitcher: Max Scherzer.

Losing Pitcher: Gerrit Cole.

Astros take an early lead

Although the Nationals would record the first hit of the night on a leadoff single in the top of the inning, it would be the Astros who would get the first runs of the night in the bottom of the first inning. George Springer worked a leadoff walk to start the frame, followed by Jose Altuve, who drilled a single to put two on base. Both would advance a base after a wild pitch to move Springer to third, followed by a steal by Altuve, then Yuli Gurriel drove them in on a two-RBI double off the left-center field wall to give Houston the quick 2-0 lead.

The Nationals immediately cut the lead in half in the top of the second, getting a solo home run by Ryan Zimmerman off of Gerrit Cole to straightaway center-field to make it a 2-1 game. The Astros threatened to extend their lead in the bottom of the third after getting runners on second and third with two outs on a bloop single that fell in by Gurriel, but a strikeout by Carlos Correa would end the inning.

Nationals roar back with five unanswered runs

The Nationals were able to fully erase the 2-0 deficit in the top of the fourth. It came on the second solo home run allowed by Gerrit Cole on the night, this one a leadoff homer to Juan Soto to tie the game. Yordan Alvarez recorded a much-needed hit considering his playoff slump to lead off the bottom of the fourth and should have moved to second after a missed catcher's interference against Josh Reddick instead resulted in Reddick recording the second out of the inning.

George Springer worked a walk next as Houston continued to work Max Scherzer into lengthy at-bats, but both runners would be left stranded as Scherzer got out of another jam. Cole encountered jam of his own in the top of the fifth, issuing his first walk to start the inning followed by a single to put two runners on. After getting an out, Cole would allow an RBI-single as Washington took their first lead at 3-2. With two outs in the inning, Juan Soto would strike again, this time a two-RBI double to extend the Nationals' lead to 5-2 before the inning was over.

Washington goes to their bullpen in the sixth while Cole finishes seven

After a scoreless top of the sixth by Cole, the Nationals moved to another pitcher, bringing in Patrick Corbin to try and hold on to Washington's lead. Corbin was as a potential Game 3 starter, but with the Nationals bullpen having notable struggles, they opted instead to go to his strong arm to try and hold on to get a Game 1 road win, potentially keeping him available for a Game 4 start. He would record a scoreless frame, erasing a one-out single by Yordan Alvarez to keep it a 5-2 deficit for Houston heading to the seventh.

Gerrit Cole would throw one more inning before he was done for the night, getting a 1-2-3 top of the seventh. His final line was not what many expected would it would be, recording his worst start of the postseason: 7.0 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 2 HR.

Nationals hold on for Game 1 win

Tanner Rainey was the next reliever for the Nationals, but George Springer welcomed him with a solo home run to lead off the bottom of the seventh to trim the lead to 5-3. Rainey would then allow back-to-back one-out walks, prompting the move to another reliever for Washington. It would be Daniel Hudson who would come in and get the second out before an infield single loaded the bases for Yordan Alvarez, who would strikeout to end the threat.

First out of Houston's bullpen was Will Harris in the top of the eighth, and he would erase a one-out single by Soto to keep it a two-run game. Kyle Tucker led off the bottom of the eighth with a pinch-hit single against Hudson, who remained in the game for Washington. Tucker would move to second by tagging on a long flyout, then score on an RBI-double by Springer that was mere feet from being a game-tying home run, but instead left the tying run on second base with one out and the score now 5-4. After a flyout by Altuve, the Nationals moved to Sean Doolittle to face Michael Brantley, and Doolittle would win that battle to keep it a one-run game.

Joe Smith would come in for the top of the ninth to try and keep it a one-run game and give Houston a chance to tie or walk it off in the bottom half of the inning. Smith did his job, keeping the Nationals off the board. Doolittle would face the middle of Houston's order in the bottom of the ninth and retired the Astros in order to finish off Houston's Game 1 loss.

Up Next: Game 2 of the 2019 World Series will start at 7:07 PM Central on Wednesday from Minute Maid Park in Houston. It offers another terrific pitching matchup on paper with Justin Verlander for the Astros going up against Stephen Strasburg for the Nationals.

The Astros playoff report is presented by APG&E.

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