Posted on October 6, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine

Houston Asros Zack Greinke
Image via si.com

The Tampa Bay Rays may have won the Wild Card Game over the A’s, but they’ve failed to follow it up with wins in the ALDS. The Astros took the first two games of the series in Houston, winning by a combined 9-3, putting them just one win away from reaching the ALCS for the third straight year. However, the Rays should not yet be counted out. They will return home to Tampa on Monday in hopes of extending the series.

Ace Attack

As many would have expected, the Astros have dominated the first two games of the ALDS with pitching. Dual-aces Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole have both been sensational, combining for 14.2 scoreless innings and 23 strikeouts. For what it’s worth, the Rays have managed three runs in 3.1 inning against the Houston bullpen. But their bats have gone cold after a strong showing in the Wild Card Game.

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Meanwhile, Tampa’s two aces haven’t been able to match Verlander and Cole. Tyler Glasnow and Blake Snell only combined for 7.2 innings, even if they held the Astros to just three runs during that time. They’ve been good, but not nearly good enough to get the Rays a win. As a result, the Rays have needed more out of their bullpen, allowing Houston’s hitters to get a read on some of the key arms Tampa is going to need to come up big if they’re going to turn the series around.

Pitching Matchup

Before getting the ball to their bullpen, the Rays will turn to Charlie Morton in Game 3. Morton is fresh off the five scoreless inning he tossed against Oakland in the Wild Card Game. Prior to that, he won 16 games and posted a 3.05 ERA during the regular season. Of course, the Astros will be familiar with him because he pitched for them during the playoffs the past two seasons. He also faced Houston twice this season, beating them in late March but getting beat up by his former team in August, allowing six runs on seven hits in just four innings of work.

The Astros, of course, will go with Zack Grienke, who was their big acquisition at the trade deadline. Greinke went 18-5 with a 2.93 ERA in 33 stars this year, including an 8-1 record in 10 starts after the trade to Houston. He struggled a little when he faced the Rays in August, allowing five runs on six his over 5.2 innings, including a pair of home runs. As far as his postseason career is concerned, Greinke has made 11 starts but with mixed results, going 3-4 with a 4.02 ERA. 

X-Factor

For Tampa Bay, the X-factor in Game 3 will be Travis d’Arnaud. He wasn’t even with the Rays on opening day, but he’s become their primary catcher. Unfortunately, d’Arnaud is just 1 for 12 with five strikeouts in the postseason. Of course, outside of Tommy Pham and Yandy Diaz, most of the Rays haven’t fared much better. But d’Arnaud is 3 for 7 with a home run against Greinke, so he’s done some damage against Houston’s starter in the past and needs to be one of the players in Tampa’s lineup to step up.

Prediction

Greinke has a lot to live up to after watching Verlander and Cole dominate. The Rays should be better able to get to him at home. More importantly, Morton looked sharp in the Wild Card Game against a lineup with a ton of power, so he’ll have a chance to hold down the Astros for four or five innings before turning it over to the bullpen. Look for the Rays to do enough to avoid the sweep. Tampa Bay Wins 6-4.

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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