Rays 2, Astros 1
The Tampa Bay Rays and the Houston Astros series is the classic offense vs defense matchup. The Astros will look to win slugfests while the Rays rely on pitching and defense. Game One went the way of the Rays as they defeated the Astros behind their strengths.
Houston got off to a quick start when Jose Altuve continued to stay hot as he homered in his third straight game. Little did they know that would not only be their only run of the game but it would also be their only extra-base hit of the game.
The Rays had trouble early but Randy Arozarena squared the game up at one in the fourth. He did not miss a mistake when Framber Valdez left a sinker up and out over the plate. That was the fourth home run of the playoffs by the young star in the making.
The second half of the game was full of clutch pitching and key defensive plays, something the Rays know how to do very well.
Game One featured two left-handed starters in Framber Valdez and Blake Snell. The first inning saw different results for the two of them. Snell labored in the first inning but Altuve’s solo shot was all he would surrender. Valdez took that one-run lead and struck out the side. His curveball was sharp early as he got both Mike Brosseau and Brandon Lowe to swing over the top of it.
Blake Snell was behind the eight ball with his high first inning pitch count. He did a better job of pitching in the zone for the next few innings and was able to get the Rays five big innings.
Framber Valdez has the sinker and the curveball really working. His lone mistake came when Arozarena tied the game at one. The Astros have got to feel good with what they got from their starter with his six-inning, eight strikeout effort.
The Astros left 11 men on base including the bases loaded twice. Not exactly a recipe for success when it comes to the playoffs. The fourth inning was one of them when Snell was able to walk off the mound unscathed. After a single and a walk, Kyle Tucker came to the plate. On the first pitch of the at-bat, he scorched a line drive right at Willy Adames who was playing on the second base side of the bag. The play resulted in an unassisted double play. Another walk and an infield single would load them up, but Snell was able to get a line out to right to end the frame.
The big miss that everyone will be talking about was the top of the eighth. Kevin Cash brought in lefty Aaron Loup who had the job of getting left-handers Michael Brantley and Tucker out. He failed on both and exited the game with three of his four batters faced, sitting on the bases behind him. Cash turned to turbo sinker specialist Diego Castillo who needed just one pitch to record two outs. Not exactly how the Rays drew it up but they would gladly take the result.
Bottom of the Lineup
The top of the lineup gets all the buzz when talking about projections and production but this game could have been won and lost by the bottom halves of the lineups. The 5-9 hitters for the Astros went just 3-16, stranding the bases loaded twice. The Rays on the other hand had the bottom of the order being the reason for scoring the winning run. Adames worked a big leadoff walk and found his way to third base with two outs. Mike Zunino was up but isn’t in the game for his bat. Through the regular season and the playoffs, he only mustered 14 hits, 10 of them of the extra-base variety. So in a game where you expect the unexpected, of course, he would single on the first pitch to bring home Adames.
The Astros know they will get production from the top half of their lineup but the success of the team could reside in the bottom half. If they can carry their weight, expect the Astros to put more runs on the board going forward.
Game Two will start the doubleheader of baseball at 4:07 ET.
The Astros will hand the ball the Lance McCullers Jr.(0-0, 9.00). McCullers is a Tampa native who will use his tough breaking ball to beat his hometown squad. In his only postseason start this year, he gave up four earned runs in just four innings of work.
The Rays will counter with their curveball thrower in Charlie Morton (1-0, 1.80). Morton as well has only made one postseason start thus far. He managed to complete five innings and only surrendered one run in that outing.
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