The scene was set up perfectly for the Tampa Bay Rays yesterday in game six of the American League Championship Series. All they had to do was win one more game, and they would advance to the franchise’s second-ever World Series.
They had their ace pitcher on the mound in Blake Snell and were facing a guy in Framber Valdez, who had been great this season, but was a guy that they had already beaten once in this series. All signs pointed to the Rays taking care of business and being able to sit back and watching to see how the NLCS played out, to see who they would be facing in the Fall Classic.
But as they say, I guess that is why we play the games. Because the Houston Astros wanted to no part of the Rays victory march and became just the second-ever American League team to go down 3-0 in a series and force a game seven.
Will Houston make history? pic.twitter.com/eeXHzvrUQQ
— MLB (@MLB) October 17, 2020
The other team to come back from down 3-0 in a series and force game seven? The 2004 Boston Red Sox when they faced the New York Yankees in the ALCS. Boston famously went on to win that game seven against New York and broke their nearly hundred-year long curse the following week, when they won the World Series.
The top of the Astros lineup continues to lead the way for Houston, as they got multi-hit nights from Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, and Carlos Correa, and George Springer, who I highlighted in my pick yesterday as a guy to keep an eye on, had two RBI.
Valdez came up big, working six innings of one-run ball, and while the Houston bullpen wasn’t great in relief, the Astros still managed to coast to the win. For today’s free daily betting pick, we will stay right here in San Diego for game seven of the American League Championship Series between the Astros and the Rays!
Houston Astros (3-3) at Tampa Bay Rays (3-3)
We get to celebrate the two greatest words in all of team sports today. Game. Seven. It all comes down to this, as the Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Rays square off in a winner take all game with a trip to the World Series on the line. The Rays took the first three games of this series and looked like they were going to sweep Houston right out of the postseason, but the Astros have shown a ton of heart, as they have battled all the way back to tie up the series and force game seven tonight.
The two greatest words in sports: Game 7. pic.twitter.com/XsZzSKuBK6
— MLB (@MLB) October 17, 2020
Starting tonight for the Rays is Charlie Morton (1-0 1.80 ERA), and for the Astros, it is Lance McCullers Jr (0-0 9.00 ERA). The game total over/under is set at seven and a half runs. The Rays are -115 betting favorites. First pitch is scheduled for 5:37 PM PST from PETCO Park in San Diego.
Can the Houston Astros complete the impossible and come back and steal this series from the Rays after being down three games to none? History tells us that they can, and they certainly have a lot of momentum. They are heading into this game carefree with nothing to lose, while the Rays have to be nervous after epically blowing their big series lead. The Astros have gotten back into this series with timely hitting and solid pitching and need both of those things tonight if they want to advance to the World Series for the third time in the last four years.
Carlos Correa was the hero of game five when he hit a walk-off home run to give Houston the win. It was the second straight year that Correa had a walk-off homer in the ALCS, as he pulled off that feat last year as well, against the New York Yankees. He followed up that heroic game five performance by racking up three hits last night in game six. Correa is hitting .372 in this postseason with six homers and fourteen RBI in twelve games. Houston will look to him tonight to lead them back to the promised land.
Lance McCullers Jr (0-0 9.00 ERA)
This entire series has changed since Lance McCullers Jr has appeared in a game. McCullers started game two of this series and was charged with the loss when he gave up four earned runs. At the time, it looked like he wouldn’t get another appearance in this series, as the Astros just couldn’t get anything going at the plate. But the Astros have new life and will call on McCullers tonight in a huge spot.
In that game one start, McCullers got blasted for three first-inning runs. He managed to settle down after the brutal first frame, though, and actually pitched well the rest of the way out, ending his day with seven innings pitched and eleven strikeouts. A costly Jose Altuve throwing error spurred the big inning for Tampa Bay, and McCullers is hoping that his defense picks him up tonight in a must-win game.
Tampa Bay Rays
Yikes. The Tampa Bay Rays are on the verge of collapse tonight. Nobody likes to be on the wrong side of history, and if Tampa Bay can’t win this game and salvage this series, they are forever going to be remembered as the team that let the cheating Houston Astros come back on them after being up three games in a series.
It is almost like the Rays are playing for America tonight, as nobody outside of Texas wants to see the Astros win this game. Houston is the first-ever American League team to make the playoffs after finishing the regular season with a losing record, and it is going to be very hard for the public to celebrate crowning recently exposed cheaters as the world champs.
Come on, Tampa Bay, do it for your fans, no matter how few they may be, that have stood by and watched you toil away in mediocrity for nearly your entire existence. Do it for the 2017 Dodgers and Yankees, that got cheated out of their shot at a world title. The country is embroiled in a lot of political turmoil and has never felt so divided. But one thing we can all get behind, is rooting against the cheating Houston Astros. Do it for America, Tampa Bay, we need you.
Charlie Morton (1-0 1.80 ERA)
Each of Charlie Morton’s last several starts have looked eerily similar. In his last four starts, he has worked exactly five innings in each game and has been very good. The Rays have been very careful with Morton this season after he missed significant time to injury, and since returning to the team in September, he has yet to pitch more than five innings in any start, and he hasn’t throw 100-pitches in any game this year.
And while Tampa Bay is only getting five innings out of Morton, he has been great while in the game. In his two playoff starts this year, he is 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA. He has worked ten innings and allowed just one earned run, while striking out eleven. In game two against Houston, he didn’t give up a single run, scattering five hits in his five innings of work.
Who Do I Like?
Lance McCullers Jr has been an absolute dumpster can fire away from home this season. In six road starts this year, he was 0-3 with a 7.33 ERA. He gave up as many runs as innings pitched, and the Astros were 1-5 in those six games.
In the postseason, he pitched in Oakland, against the A’s in the ALDS, and got smashed for five runs in four innings. While the Astros were technically the home team in game two of this series, we all know that game wasn’t at Minute Maid Park in Houston, so I am still considering it a road game, and again he struggled, as he gave up four runs and was charged with the loss.
In total, McCullers has made eight starts, not in Houston, and the Astros are 1-7 in those eight games. Throw in the fact that Charlie Morton is rested and pitching very well right now, and I think that the Rays avoid being the butt of a joke and find a way to win this game. Statisticians will tell you that momentum isn’t real in baseball, and while I tend to disagree with that statement, I do know that whatever has happened in the last week, has very little bearing over what will happen tonight in game seven.
I expect McCullers to give up several runs and Charlie Morton to get stretched out a little more than he has been lately. Morton threw a season-high 96 pitches in game two against Houston, and I would think that he is good for triple-digit pitches tonight if he is sharp. The data tells me that the Rays are bigger favorites in this game than the number will show, and while I rarely let my rooting interest interfere with my bets, I really don’t want to see Houston win this game.
The Rays would be such a great feel-good story to rally behind, whereas the Astros are everything that is wrong about baseball right now. Let’s hope the ball bounces the Rays way tonight, and they win and advance. Give me the Tampa Bay Rays as small betting favorites tonight in game seven of the American League Championship Series, laying -115!