In 2019, the Tampa Bay Rays came closer to eliminating the Astros in the ALDS than the Yankees did in the ALCS. The Rays pushed the Astros to a win or go home fifth game, while the Astros, thanks to Jose Altuve, sent the Yanks home in the sixth game of their best in 7 series.
Flash forward to 2020 and it’s the Rays who eliminated the Yankees on Mike Brosseau’s late-inning home run. And it’s the Rays, who have had the brilliant regular season, which has been disguised by the brevity of it. Their 40-20 record would be the equivalent of a 108-54 record in a 162 game season, which is an extremely stout achievement. Considering they were coming out of the AL East and had compiled those wins against those Yanks, the Blue Jays, (forget the Red Sox) and NLEast teams like the still alive Braves and the up and coming playoff Marlins, that was quite an accomplishment.
The Astros as we know stumbled into the playoffs, toughed out a couple wins in Minnesota and then rediscovered their offensive swagger against the Oakland A’s in a three out of four takedown.
So, now these two teams with a couple shared connections meet one step short of the World Series. Astros’ GM/ head of baseball operations James Click had been with the Rays his whole career before taking over for the deposed Jeff Luhnow the last off-season. Former Astro pitcher Charlie Morton, who was a big part of the 2017 and 2018 Houston playoff runs and was on the mound when the team clinched their only World Series win, has been a big part of the Rays’ 2019 and 2020 runs. Former Astro farmhand Brett Phillips, who went to the Brewers in the “OMG, shoot me now” Mike Fiers and Carlos Gomez trade has been a bench piece for the Rays in the playoffs, but was dropped from the roster for extra pitching for the ALCS.
How do these teams match up in the playoffs?
Both teams performed a little bit above average with similar slash marks (.238 BA/ .328 OBP/ .753 OPS for the Rays and .240 BA/ .312 OBP/ .720 OPS) and 4.82 runs per game for the Rays vs. 4.65 for the Astros in the regular season. The Astros were the best team in the league at avoiding the strikeout, while the Rays were the second best team at walking. The Rays are also the best base stealing team (%-wise) in the AL stealing 48 of 57 attempts while the Astros were only good on 22 of 33 tries. The Astros lineup is filled with familiar faces on the national scene between George Springer, Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman, and Carlos Correa with Kyle Tucker added to the mix. The Rays have an offense made up of mostly non-household names, led by Brandon Lowe and his 14 HRs and 37 RBIs in the regular season and by post season heroes Randy Arozarena and Mike Brosseau. The Rays offense like their pitching has been a true team effort as 16 different players had 10 or more RBIs in the regular season. The Astros only had 9 players with 10 or more RBIs.
If you were going to give an edge to either offense, it might be to the Astros, who seemed to come alive in the ALDS with the kind of big time hitting the fans got used to over the last three post seasons. Or….they could disappear again.
Note: In a side note, the player who hit a HR on the last pitch of the 2019 ALCS, hit a HR in the first inning of the 2020 ALCS – Mr. Jose Altuve. (He should have tore his own uniform off after launching that dinger.)
The Rays starting rotation was third best in the AL with a 3.77 ERA, while the Astros were sixth with a 4.26 ERA, but due to the Rays concept of starting games with a reliever (known as an opener), the Rays were 12th with only 258 innings pitched by a starter and the Astros were 2nd in the AL with 312.2 innings pitched. The Rays rely on a big three of Blake Snell (4-2, 3.24 ERA), Tyler Glasnow (5-2, 4.08 ERA) and Charlie Morton (2-2, 4.74 ERA). Ryan Yarbrough (1-4, 3.56 ERA) and Josh Fleming (5-0, 2.78 ERA) have also started this season along with a slew of openers. With Zack Greinke (3-3, 4.03 ERA) fighting elbow soreness, the top starters for the Astros are now Framber Valdez (5-3, 3.57 ERA), Jose Urquidy (1-1, 2.73 ERA) and Lance McCullers Jr.(3-3, 3.93 ERA) with young Cristian Javier (5-2, 3.48 ERA) becoming a critical cog. The seven games in seven days, especially with Greinke ailing has to give an advantage to the Rays in this area.
The Tampa bullpen is very reminiscent of the bullpen the Astros just buried in the ALDS – the Oakland A’s. They are deep and talented. The Rays have the second best bullpen ERA (behind the A’s) at 3.37 ERA with an excellent WHIP of 1.19. The Astros’ bullpen had the 8th best ERA (4.39) in the AL and the 14th worst WHIP (1.52). The Rays had saves by ………..12 (12!!!!) different pitchers in a 60 game season. They have relied heavily on Nick Anderson (2-1, 6 SVs, 0.55 ERA), Diego Castillo (3-0, 4 SVs, 1.66 ERA), Pete Fairbanks (6-3, 2.70 ERA) and sidewinder Ryan Thompson (1-2, 1 SV, 4.40 ERA). The Astros used a very narrow slice of the bullpen in the first two series that is not sustainable in the seven games in seven days format. The main stays so far have included starters Valdez and Javier and then normal relievers Ryan Pressly (1-3, 12 SVs, 3.43 ERA), Enoli Paredes (3-3, 3.05 ERA), Blake Taylor (2-1, 1 SV, 2.18 ERA) and Brooks Raley (0-1, 3.94 ERA).
The Tampa bullpen has the depth to carry their team, the big question is who will stand up and perform for the Astros in their time of need.
The Rays were a team who won the equivalent of 108 games this year while the Astros were a team who won the equivalent of 78 games. The Rays are (and should be) favored in this series. But the Astros are playing for pride and to continue to prove they can win the right way. How far can that carry them? Hopefully it will carry them to the World Series.
Astros played hard, good baseball, but it wasn’t enough. Framber was great. Winning run got on base with a walk.
Astros out hit the Rays and had little to show for it.
Hope to see Lance pitch his best ball of the year and to see the Astros score a lot tomorrow.
Tonight’s loss was a story of missed opportunities for the Astros. Framber pitched well enough to win so a tough loss. Maybe the Astros play better when the other team scores first. Too many swings at bad pitches. Tomorrow is another day.
Tough loss. We got the starting pitching. We got the pen. And the bats came awfully close to putting Snell away early. 9 hits. Other balls well struck. Only 5 K’s. We hit the ball better than the other guys. Tucker continues to impress. Big hits at important times. If his liner up the middle does not turn into a DP, it’s a different game. That’s the way it goes sometimes.
Here is a much tougher loss….. loved that guy and always wondered if he had not been traded away, what would happen
Will 2020 ever end.
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Good comments from a seasoned crowd.
We stood toe-to-toe with best AL reg season team, and had them on the brink up until the very last pitch. A base hit by Jose and the pressure cooker is reversed. Turnabout from last year is fair play..
This might be McCullers’ 2nd biggest moment, next to his performance in Gm 7 of 2017 ALCS.
Let’s get ’em today!
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*NO ONE* felt worse about not getting a hit last night with the bases loaded more than Yuli😭. You could see it in his face, and the way that inning ended. Dusty is sticking with him for two things.
It tells Yuli he believes in him…no matter what.
It tells the rest of the team that Dusty is a players player. They need to know Dusty has their back, and trust me that respect goes a very LONG way.
It’s so sad that Joe Morgan has passed away, but yet again it *IS* 2020, and this year has been the worst year in American history.
My hope is for today that McCullers doesn’t melt down and puts his team behind the 8 ball that the Astros can’t recover.
My sweet Charlie starts today, and I hope he yips and let’s our guys get runs off him. I can’t listen to the TV guys, so I tune my radio to 790 am and listen to the play by play by Robert Ford and Steve Sparks. They have a wealth of information about BOTH teams! Talk after the game GO ‘STROS⚾
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Never want to forget the men and women who affected our lives. I didn’t live in HOU when Joe Morgan played here, but I admired him so much for his gritty style. That Big Red Machine team was just the most amazing thing to watch, hands down for me. They had it all. Rose Morgan Seaver Perez Concepcion Griffey Bench Geronimo.
Morgan was always so twitchy, had that iconic routine in the batter’s box by flapping his chicken wing, much quicker than Willie Stargell’s.
I enjoyed his insight in the booth in his early years, similar to Troy Aikman or Tony Romo — they would tell you what a major leaguer or QB is thinking right there. What he’s anticipating to happen as the most likely outcomes. You then can see why the player made the play, based on the jump and being a step ahead of “pure chance”. That was back when they didn’t have Statcast, but had to ‘cipher from their yrs of experience, and draw on their keen memory.
The game has definitely changed since Morgan’s day. He always said the best player he played with was Cesar Cedeno, and had he not been hurt (off field too), he’d have gone farther. Most of the fans who were here before me can probably attest.
I hope the Morgan family is comforted in the life he led, seemed like a pretty straight up person who fought respectfully for black athletes and coaches. A real leader among men.
Does anyone know off hand any good books that tell much about Morgan’s playing days? Probably former players’ books, as I’ve read some of Pete Rose accounts..
I remember back in 1966, Morgan was 22 y.o. and was tearing it up – hitting way over .300, over .400 OBP and headed to the All Star Game and got a broken knee cap on a batting practice line drive by Lee Maye (not Lee May). Missed 40 games and the ASG and was not as good the rest of the season.
Bases loaded no outs…..nothing. Bases loaded 2 outs….nothing. (((sigh)))😠
Beginning to feel like we’re snake bit. Just can’t seem to get that big hit.
Have had a lot of hard hit balls the last couple days in the wrong place. Buzzard’s luck so far. It doesn’t help when Lance melts down instead of pitching around an error.
Man – two Altuve throwing errors in one game?
LMJ gets out of that jam after the Altuve error.
Another frustrating part of that was that when Gurriel dropped it and scooped it up, he lost concentration and pulled his toe off the bag. At least I think he pulled it early…I’m think another replay angle might have shown he kept it on long enough. But in my mind the big tell is that he didn’t stretch to reach it with his legs. Based on how he was running the other day I agree with someone’s comment that he’s either got a leg injury or is having some back issues. My first instinct was actually shin splints. I assume we’ll hear something a week after the season.
Bottom of the 7th and McCullers has 11 strikeouts….and now another homerun. Score is 4-1 and it looks like there’s no hope for these guys.
That 3 run (unearned) homerun REALLY screwed his start, but there were plenty of opportunities for these guys to score, just couldn’t get it done.
Not gonna happen today I’m afraid. On the bright side it was nice to see Yuli get a hit, and hit the ball hard to the outfield!
It ain’t over ’til its over, Becky. Though it may be over.
Bases loaded no outs…nothing. Bases loaded 2 outs…nothing. (((sigh)))😠
Damn shame. Great start again. Pen threw another zero. We hit the ball hard again. Both games could have gone either way. I feel bad for Altuve. Who knows what’s going on in his life? He hasn’t been with us all year.
Thing is, if a couple of those well struck balls find holes tomorrow, getting back in it is not impossible.
Top of the ninth, bases loaded, their pitcher has thrown SEVEN balls out of the strike zone in a row, what does Bregman do? Swings at the first offering to fly out!!! AARRGGHH!!!!