We have two games on the schedule today, with the Tampa Bay Rays and the Houston Astros matching up in game two of the American League Championship Series, while the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves play game one of the National League Championship Series. The Rays took the series lead last night in game one of the ALCS, coming from behind after trailing 1-0 in the first inning, to steal the series lead with a 2-1 victory.
— MLB (@MLB) October 12, 2020
In the National League, the Dodgers and Braves kick off their highly anticipated best of seven series from Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas. That game figures to be a tightly contested affair as both teams have their ace starting pitchers on the mound, with the Dodgers going with Walker Buehler and Atlanta starting Max Fried. For our free daily betting pick, we will head back to PETCO Park in San Diego for game two of the ALCS between the Astros and the Rays.
Houston Astros (0-1) at Tampa Bay Rays (1-0)
If last night’s game one of the American League Championship Series set the tone for what is to come the rest of the way out in this series, we are in for a treat, as the game was fantastic. Both teams refused to give up an inch, and every baserunner had to earn their way to first base, as nothing was easy. Jose Altuve gave the Astros an early 1-0 lead with a home run in the first inning, but that would be the only run the Astros would score on the day.
The Rays managed to tie the game up in the fourth on a Randy Arozarena home run and took the lead in the fifth, on a Mike Zunino RBI single. The Astros loaded the bases up in the eighth inning with just one out, but Tampa Bay was able to hang on to their lead, when Yuri Gurriel grounded into an inning-ending double play. The game was a tense one, and I expect another competitive game tonight in game two.
— MLB (@MLB) October 12, 2020
Starting tonight for the Astros is Lance McCullers Jr (0-0 9.00 ERA), and for the Rays, it is Charlie Morton (1-0 1.80 ERA). The game total over/under is set at eight runs. The Rays are -125 favorites. First pitch is scheduled for 1:07 PM PST from PETCO Park in San Diego.
The Astros had ample opportunities to get on the board last night, and just couldn’t find a way to break through, outside of the early homer by Altuve. The Astros had two on with no outs in the fourth inning and couldn’t score a run. Again, in the sixth inning, they had two runners on base and couldn’t drive in any runs. We already talked about the blunder in the eighth where they failed to score with the bases loaded and just one out, and in the ninth, Houston put the tying run on base, with the go-ahead run at the plate and couldn’t get the job done.
The Rays have an elite pitching staff, and they aren’t going to be easy to score against. The Astros have to find a way to score when they get runners on base, and after seeing them not be able to do that in game one, you have to wonder about their ability to get the clutch hits they are going to need to win this series.
The Rays love to play 2-1 type of games, whereas Houston would much rather getting into a slugfest.The Rays showed in game one that they were able to play their type of game, and unless Houston can change that, the Astros aren’t going to have a lot of success in this series.
Lance McCullers Jr (0-0 9.00 ERA)
The Houston Astros are calling on Lance McCullers Jr to step up big for them tonight in game two. The Astros know that if they go down two games in this series that the chances that they would be able to come back are going to be very slim. This is the definition of a must-win game, and the fact that they are sending McCullers to the mound is a little bit surprising when you look at how he has pitched in the postseason so far.
McCullers has made one start in the playoffs, and he got hammered against the Oakland Athletics, giving up five runs in only four innings of work. In that game, he got blasted for eight hits, three of them coming as home runs. In September, despite a couple of decent outings, the Astros lost all four games where McCullers started.
Tampa Bay Rays
If you haven’t watched the Tampa Bay Rays play a game this season, yesterday was the perfect example of what this team is all about. They don’t have the big-name talent of some of the other teams they are up against, but they win games by having strong pitching, timely hitting, and great management. Tampa Bay is never afraid of making a controversial decision in a game. We saw that in game five of the ALDS against the New York Yankees, when they started Tyler Glasnow on just two days rest.
Rays manager Kevin Cash will make some unconventional moves if he thinks it will help his team win games, and he manages his bullpen to perfection. In games four and five of the ALDS, the Rays used their bullpen basically the entire game and advanced in the series against the far more talented Yankees.
They seem to again be outmatched in terms of raw talent in this series with Houston, but they know how to win ball games and, after taking game one, are looking to take what would be a huge two-game lead tonight in game two.
Charlie Morton (1-0 1.80 ERA)
The Rays decided to bring Charlie Morton back very slowly after he missed more than a full month’s worth of regular-season action with an injury. But in this game, I would expect that Morton gets a chance to shine and has the handcuffs taken off, as he was really good for Tampa Bay in the postseason last year, and with seven games in seven days, the Rays are going to have to rest their weary bullpen at some point.
Morton was stellar against the Yankees in the ALDS, holding New York to just one earned run in five innings. Last year, Morton made two playoff starts for the Rays and worked a combined ten innings and allowed just one earned run while striking out thirteen batters. It wouldn’t shock me to see Tampa Bay try to get six or even seven innings out of Morton tonight, and his recent playoff production tells me that he could be very good.
Who Do I Like?
Lance McCullers Jr has been atrocious away from home this season. In Houston, the guy is pitching at an All-Star level as he is 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA in five starts. But on the road, he is an abysmal 0-3 with a sky-high 7.33 ERA in six starts. Hitters are hitting a sizzling hot .290 against him on the road. I would expect McCullers to continue with those struggles in this game.
The Rays aren’t going to hammer you for a lot of home runs, but they do a really good job of situational hitting, and if they can get some early base runners on against McCullers, you can bet that they are going to find a way to plate some runs. The Rays do all of the little things right. They get runners on, move them over, and drive them in. That is what they are looking to do early in this game against Lance McCullers Jr.
I would expect McCullers to last three or four innings tonight and give up at least a couple of runs. Morton has been too good in the postseason in his history not to think he won’t give the Rays at least five innings of quality work, and I see him leaving the game with the lead. If both of those premonitions come true, that means that the Rays will have a lead heading into the late innings, and that is really bad news for Astros fans.
The Rays are great at getting a lead and not letting it go, and with Morton being the significantly better side of the starting pitching matchup tonight, particularly when you look at how bad McCullers has been on the road, that is where I see this game ending up. They might make us sweat it out a little like they did last night, but at the end of the day, I see the Rays winning this game. Give me the Tampa Bay Rays as small home favorites, laying -125 in game two!