We picked up an easy winner last night in game two of the American League Championship Series when we backed the Tampa Bay Rays as small betting favorites against the Houston Astros. I felt strongly that Charlie Morton was the much better side of the starting pitching matching, despite him being limited due to injuries in the regular season.
I expected Morton to continue his trend of being light’s out in the playoffs for Tampa Bay, and when I looked at how poorly Astros starter Lance McCullers Jr had been pitching on the road this year, his ERA was north of seven runs away from Minute Maid Park in Houston, I loved fading him at what I saw as a more than reasonable price. So, I backed the Rays and expected them to find a way to grind out another victory.
When Lance McCullers Jr got blasted for a three-run bomb in the first inning, I knew I was on the right side of the action. McCullers shockingly pitched very well after giving up the early homer to Manuel Margot, but spotting the Rays a three-run lead was more than enough for Tampa Bay to cruise to victory and cash our ticket.
The Manny Margot game™️ pic.twitter.com/8JfIFFqz4D
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) October 13, 2020
The Rays made us sweat it out again, though, for the second straight day, as the Astros mounted a late-inning comeback in the ninth. Houston loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth and scored a run on a George Springer double-play ball. The Astros proceeded to then load the bases once again, before seeing Alex Bregman give a ball a ride to the warning track, just missing what would have been a go-ahead Grand Slam.
This series has been very entertaining, and for today’s free daily betting pick, we will stay right here in San Diego for game three of the American League Championship Series between the Rays and the Astros.
Tampa Bay Rays (2-0) at Houston Astros (0-2)
The Houston Astros are in desperate need of a win tonight as they host the Tampa Bay Rays in game three of the best of seven American League Championship Series. The Rays have held the Astros to just three runs in the first two games of this series, and if Tampa Bay can win tonight, they would all but lock up just their second-ever trip to the World Series. For Houston, the Astros are hoping a win today can spark a rally and get them back into this series.
Yarby joins the party tonight pic.twitter.com/UpLDSKjl6S
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) October 13, 2020
Starting tonight for the Astros is Jose Urquidy (1-1 2.73 ERA), and for the Rays, it is Ryan Yarbrough (1-4 3.56 ERA). The game total over/under is set at eight and a half runs. The game is currently an even pick ’em, with both teams laying -105. First pitch is scheduled for 8:40 PM PST from PETCO Park in San Diego.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays have completely dictated how this series has played out so far through the first two games. All season long, the Rays have used a combination of timely hitting and stellar pitching to win close ball games. Unlike the Houston Astros, who prefer to play higher scoring games and try and outslug their opponents, the Rays love to keep the pressure turned up high, with low scoring games and lots of pitching changes to exploit the best matchups they have available to them.
In my preview of this series, I mentioned that if the Rays were able to get the Astros to play their type of games, that they were going to win this series. They have done just that so far, and in game three today, they are going to continue to look for ways to limit the Astros hard-hitting lineup. There has been a new hero every night for Tampa Bay; who will it be tonight in game three?
Ryan Yarbrough (1-4 3.56 ERA)
If you were to just glance at Ryan Yarbrough’s 1-4 record, you might think he had a rough year. He didn’t. While he did have some isolated struggles, for the most part, he actually pitched really well most of the time. The Rays have used Yarbrough as an opener type of pitcher at times, and other times, they have gotten as many as seven innings out of him. He gives the Rays a lot of flexibility on the mound, and it wouldn’t shock me to see him in this game for six innings and it wouldn’t shock me to see him pitch just three innings.
The Rays are always going to look to shrink the game down as early as they can, and even if Yarbrough is pitching well, that won’t stop Rays manager Kevin Cash from making the move to go to his bullpen at any point. Yarbrough has been pitching his best lately, as in his last four starts, he has worked a combined 21 innings and has allowed just five earned runs. That is good for a 2.21 ERA and includes a respectable performance against the New York Yankees in the ALDS, where he pitched five innings and gave up just two earned runs to the top hitting team in the American League.
What is it going to take to get the Houston Astros hitting tonight in a must-win game three? The Astros were hammering the ball in the ALDS against the Oakland Athletics, but that run production has come to a screeching halt here against Tampa Bay. Houston has done a good job of keeping the Rays bats at bay, but they just aren’t scoring enough runs to really stay competitive.
The Astros will catch a little bit of a break on the mound tonight, as Ryan Yarbrough is good, but he isn’t Cy Young Award caliber good like the rest of the guys the Astros have to hit against in this series. Charlie Morton, Blake Snell, and Tyler Glasnow are all capable of shutting a team completely down, and the Astros have to take advantage of a softer spot tonight, or they are going to end up getting swept.
Jose Urquidy (1-1 2.73 ERA)
Jose Urquidy was a late-season call up for the Houston Astros and acquitted himself nicely for Houston down the stretch. Urquidy made five regular-season starts for the Astros and posted a more than respectable 2.73 ERA and made it to the sixth inning or deeper in his final four starts of the year. The Astros have turned to him to start in the postseason twice already, but he hasn’t been able to post the same level of production in the playoffs as he did during the regular season.
Urquidy failed to make it out of the fifth inning in either of his two postseasons starts this year, and in his last start, he got hammered. In his last game, coming against the Oakland Athletics in the ALDS, Urquidy got blasted for a whopping four home runs. Homers have plagued the young man in his short MLB career as he has allowed 14 home runs in just 79 career innings pitched. The Rays aren’t known for their power, and Urquidy must find a way to keep the ball in the ballpark tonight if Houston wants any shot of getting back into this series.
Who Do I Like?
I think the Rays are going to win this game. While Jose Urquidy is a good young pitcher, I am not so sure he is ready for primetime just yet. His ERA of 5.19 in the postseason tells me that he is going to give up at least a run or two, and with the way the Rays are pitching, that may be enough for them to squeak out another win.
The Houston bullpen isn’t awful, and I am sure that if Urquidy isn’t sharp, they are going to pull him from the game quickly, but with the way this Rays team just grinds you down, they are going to score some runs tonight. I would expect that Yarbrough is used more as an opener in this game, and likely only pitches to the lineup once. The Rays will then turn it over to the bullpen, and we have seen already in his series that isn’t a good thing for Houston.
I don’t think this number is a particularly bad one. I can see why some people might like the Astros. On paper, this game is very evenly matched. But I think the Rays just have that championship swagger right now, and they are doing whatever it takes to win games.
We saw yesterday in the first inning when Jose Altuve made a throwing error, and Tampa Bay was right there to take advantage of it, smashing a three-run homer in the next at-bat. That inning was a perfect example of how this Rays team gets the job done day in and day out. If you leave the door open or make a mistake, they take advantage of it every time.
Who will tonight’s hero be for Tampa Bay? Who knows, your guess is as good as mine. But its’ probably some guy that you have never heard of like Manuel Margot, Mike Zunino, Randy Arozarena, Julio Hernandez, or Mike Brosseau. Want a quick spot check on how little credit and notoriety this Rays team has gotten this year? I made up one of those names above and if you don’t google it, or live in Tampa Bay, you don’t know which one is the fake!
They are nameless, they are faceless, but they are absolutely winners. I am not sure how they will do it, but at the end of the day, the Rays are going to win this game. Give me the Tampa Bay Rays at even money tonight in game three of the American League Championship Series!