Posted on October 10, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine

Houston Astros Gerrit Cole
Image via cbssports.com

If the Houston Astros are going to claim their second World Series in three years, they’re going to do so the hard way. After winning the first two games of the ALDS in Houston, the Astros failed to close out the series in two attempts, losing both games in Tampa. That will set up a decisive Game 5 between the Rays and Astros Thursday night back in Houston with the New York Yankees awaiting the winner.

Out of the Pen

As it has for much of the season, the Tampa bullpen led the way in Games 3 and 4. In fairness, Charlie Morton gave the Rays five good innings in Game 3, only forcing the Tampa bullpen to go four innings. However, in Game 4, it was all bullpen with six different pitchers combining to go nine innings, allowing just one run against the potent Houston lineup. Oddly enough, it was ace and reigning Cy Young winner Blake Snell who recorded the final two outs. But 8.1 innings from relief pitchers while allowing one run isn’t bad either. Plus, with a day off on Wednesday, the Rays should have just about everyone available for Game 5.

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Pitching Matchup

Of course, before going to the bullpen, the Rays will see what they can get out of Tyler Glasnow, who gets the start in Game 5. Glasnow got the start in Game 1 despite coming back from injury in September and not being fully stretched out. He was every bit as good as Justin Verlander during the first four innings of the game, only to run out of gas in the 5th, ultimately giving up a pair of runs. The Rays will feel good about giving him the ball again in Game 5, although manager Kevin Cash may have a short leash, knowing that Glasnow probably doesn’t have the stamina to go deep in the game.

Meanwhile, the Astros will go back to Gerrit Cole, who was brilliant in Game 2. Cole struck out 15 Rays while allowing just four hits and one walk over 7.2 innings. It was a dominant performance that helped the Astros win despite only scratching out three runs. Houston would love nothing more than to see Cole replicate that kind of outing in Game 5. It may not be easy after the Rays got a good look at him, but Cole will be on regular rest and ready to go.

X-Factor

The X-factor in Game 5 could be Tampa infielder Joey Wendle. He didn’t face Cole in Game 2 of the series but is 3 for 7 with a triple against him in his career. Wendle also doubled and drove in a run in Game 4. Given Tampa’s struggles against Cole the first time around, Cash could shake up his lineup a little, with Wendle likely to start at third base and give the Rays a spark after being helpless against Cole in Game 2.

Prediction

The Rays have done a great job of getting back in the series and forcing a Game 5. But between Cole’s dominance in Game 2 and the Houston lineup in their home ballpark, Tampa is facing an uphill battle if they want to win three in a row against the Astros. Cole may not give the Astros 7.2 scoreless innings, but Houston’s hitters will also fare better against Glasnow after seeing him last week. Houston wins 7-3.

Note: This prediction is the opinion of the author and not necessarily the prediction of Jon Price or Sports Information Traders.

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