Posted on October 3, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine

Astros vs Rays
Image via sandiegouniontribune.com

One year removed from their World Series title in 2017, the Houston Astros are geared up for another October run. After leading all of baseball with 107 wins, the Astros are seen by many as the team to beat. However, they will face a stiff challenge in the ALDS from the Tampa Bay Rays, who are fresh off their Wild Card victory over Oakland. Let’s see how these two teams match up against one another in a five-game series.

Offense – Advantage Astros

When they’re clicking, there are few teams better offensively than the Astros. There is some question about Carlos Correa’s health after missing time down the stretch due to a back injury. But Houston has the depth to make up for it. Like past years, George Springer, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, and Yuli Gurriel make for a deep lineup. The Astros have also added free-agent addition Michael Brantley and rookie Yordan Alvarez to give them even more firepower.

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The Rays have a more modest lineup, but they have just enough to make them dangerous. Austin Meadows is their best hitter, but players like Avisail Garcia and Tommy Pham are also good contact hitters who can also supply power. The Rays can’t match Houston in the power department, but they’ll try to use their depth to mix and match lineups depending on the opposing pitcher to give themselves the best chance to score runs.

Rotation – Advantage Astros

When Houston acquired Zack Greinke at the trade deadline, there was little doubt that the Astros had the best rotation in baseball. Greinke is in line to be the no. 3 starter behind dual aces Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, who are as good as any 1-2 combo in baseball. Houston also has Wade Miley lined up as their no. 4 starter. Miley won 14 games with a 3.98 ERA this season and also holds a 1.23 ERA in four postseason starts.

Of course, Tampa’s rotation was nearly as good during the regular season, although there is less certainty heading into the postseason. The Rays got both Tyler Glasnow and Blake Snell back from injury in September. However, it remains to be seen if both are fully stretched out for the postseason, specifically Snell. That being said, if those two are at the top of their game, they’re as good as Verlander and Cole. The Rays also have Charlie Morton, who pitched five shutout innings against Oakland in the Wild Card Game.

Bullpen – Advantage Rays

No bullpen pitched more innings or had more success in 2019 than the Tampa bullpen. If they can get deep outings from Glasnow and Snell, the Rays may not need their bullpen as much. However, the Rays will feel good about going to their bullpen if necessary. Emilio Pagan, Nick Anderson, and Diego Castillo will be the go-to guys, but Oliver Drake, Chaz Roe, and Yonny Chirinos are also trusted bullpen arms.

In fairness, the Astros were third in the American League in bullpen ERA this year. The Houston bullpen was a liability two years ago, but that’s not the case anymore. Roberto Osuna is a reliable closer while Ryan Pressly and Will Harris are both reliable setup men. The likes of Hector Rondon, Joe Smith, and Brad Peacock provide plenty of depth, just in case the Astros need it.

Prediction – Astros in 5

The Astros may be the favorites, but there is not much that separates these teams. Tampa’s success in this series will come down to what they get out of Glasnow and Snell, who are lacking in experience compared to Houston’s starters. It won’t be easy, but the Astros should prevail in the end. Houston wins in five.

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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