In my breakdown of yesterday’s game three of the American League Championship Series, I mentioned that the Tampa Bay Rays always seem to find a way to take advantage of opposing team’s mistakes and that every day a new guy steps up to be the hero for the Rays. I didn’t have an overly strong opinion on what that mistake might be or which Rays player was going to be the guy to take advantage of it, but I did feel strongly that the Rays were going to make it happen and win the game.
When Astros second baseman Jose Altuve botched a routine throw in the top of the sixth inning, giving the Rays an extra out, it was exactly the spot that the Rays had been waiting the entire game for, and as expected, they made the Astros pay for the mishap. Two batters later, Joey Wendle singled to left, scoring Brandon Lowe and Randy Arozarena, to give the Rays their first lead of the game. By the time the smoke cleared, the Rays scored five runs in the frame, and just like that, the game was basically over.
The Rays are a force.
And now they're one win away from the pennant. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/fSFHPQUJlz
— MLB (@MLB) October 14, 2020
Tampa Bay has made us sweat out each of these first three victories, and last night, they again played with fire, without getting burned. Houston loaded the bases in the eighth inning with just one out and couldn’t score a run. And in the ninth inning, Houston brought the tying run to the plate, again with only one out, but couldn’t do any damage, and the Rays held on for the win, and now have a three games to none series lead.
This has been an eminently entertaining series, with every game packed full of drama and excitement. The teams will play game four tonight, with the Astros trying to extend their season and avoid the sweep. For our free daily betting pick, we will stay right here in San Diego for game four of the American League Championship Series between the Astros and the Rays.
Tampa Bay Rays (3-0) at Houston Astros (0-3)
It is win or go home tonight for the Houston Astros in game four of the ALCS. The Astros again struggled at the plate last night in game three, managing just two runs, to bring their three-game total to just five total runs, as the Tampa Bay pitching staff has managed to completely shut them down. The Rays are hoping to pick up the sweep tonight, as they would love to rest up their starters for what is sure to be a grueling World Series.
The #Rays are rollin'!
They're one win from reaching the World Series. pic.twitter.com/LnZ6XlneWB
— MLB (@MLB) October 14, 2020
Starting tonight for the Rays is Tyler Glasnow (5-1 4.08 ERA), and for the Astros, it is Zack Greinke (3-3 4.03 ERA). The game total over/under is set at eight runs. The Rays are -140 favorites. First pitch is scheduled for 5:40 PM PST from PETCO Park in San Diego.
Tampa Bay Rays
There is something special going on in Tampa Bay right now. Whenever they need a big hit, they get it. Whenever they need a big out, they find a way to make it happen. Last night the defense made several plays that made you think, how did they do that?
With the bases loaded in the eighth inning, Kyle Tucker hit a fly ball to shallow left field that looked certain to drop and score at least one run. But Hunter Renfroe inexplicitly got under it to make a sliding catch, and somehow, Houston didn’t even manage to tag up and advance the runners, as the Astros baserunners were just as shocked that he caught the ball as the rest of us.
Plays like this have become the norm for Tampa Bay, and this team is putting on a masterclass on how to win baseball games as a team. None of these Rays players are superstars. I would challenge you to even name more than one or two position players for Tampa Bay. But this team was built perfectly, and the sum of all these parts adds up to a remarkably efficient and clutch baseball team, that is very hard to beat.
Tyler Glasnow (5-1 4.08 ERA)
When the Rays absolutely had to have a win in game five of the ALDS against the New York Yankees, they decided to pass up on starting Blake Snell, a guy that is just two years removed from winning the AL Cy Young Award, and was on four day’s rest, to start Tyler Glasnow, on just two days rest. The Rays are known for making controversial and shocking decisions, particularly with their pitching staff, but even for Tampa Bay, that one seemed hard to understand.
But when Glasnow went out and pitched two and a third innings of no-hit ball against the hardest hitting team in the American League, and the Rays found a way to win the game, once again Rays manager Kevin Cash looked like a genius. Glasnow has great swing and miss stuff, and in 13.1 innings this postseason, he has already racked up 20 Ks. Glasnow will be on his normal rest for today’s start, and Tampa Bay hopes that he can get them six or maybe even seven innings of work tonight and put the Astros away for good.
Maybe it is karma, maybe it is bad luck, or maybe its just baseball being baseball, but right now, the Houston Astros are their own worst enemy. I give a lot of credit to the Rays for taking full advantage of these errors and misplays by the Astros, but it is shocking to see a team as experienced and talented as the Astros are, making so many blunders. Twice in this series, Jose Altuve has had costly throwing errors that have cost his team wins.
This, coming from a former Gold Glove and AL MVP Award winner. Altuve isn’t usually a guy that struggles in high-pressure situations, and his inability to make easy throws has put his team on the brink of elimination. Poor defense and bad decisions, like Houston not advancing the runners in the eighth inning last night when Renfroe was never going to be able to make a strong throw from his knees, tend to be contagious, and if you are going to win in the playoffs, you can’t make mental errors like the ones the Astros have been making in this series.
Zack Greinke (3-3 4.03 ERA)
Last year in the postseason, Zack Greinke was the number three starter behind Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. This year, Cole and Verlander are both gone, and Greinke is now the ace of this Astros rotation. The problem for Houston is, that he hasn’t really pitched like an ace, as he has been shockingly bad in the second half of the season. After a great start to the season that had him sitting at 2-0 with a 2.89 ERA entering September, Greinke just hasn’t pitched well since.
In September, Greinke had an ERA of over six runs, and the Astros lost four out of his last five starts. In the playoffs, he hasn’t been much better, as his ERA in two starts is 5.19, and he has yet to make it out of the fifth inning. In his last start, he worked just 4.2 innings against the Oakland Athletics and got hammered for four runs, all earned, on five hits and a walk. All told, Greinke has allowed three earned runs or more in eight out of his last nine starts.
Who Do I Like?
Break out your brooms tonight; the Tampa Bay Rays are going to finish the Astros off with the sweep in game four. Greinke has been super shaky, and just can’t be trusted at this point. This Houston team looks dejected and frustrated, and with each one of these poor decisions and failed comeback attempts, they have to be falling deeper and deeper into despair. It wouldn’t shock me to see them just give up in this game.
After all they have been through in the offseason with the cheating scandal, losing their GM and manager, and seeing several of their best players leave or get hurt, this team has taken a beating. And after dropping the first three games of this series, nobody is going to fault them too much for packing it in a game early and calling it a season.
A mentally strong team wouldn’t do that, but we saw that this Houston team wasn’t mentally strong with how they handled their sign-stealing scandal, and seeing them beat themselves like they have in this series, is particularly satisfying.
Glasnow is the better starter, the Rays are the better team, and Tampa Bay is going to win this game. Maybe the Astros come out flat and dejected, as I expect. Or maybe they come out fired up and trip over their own feet again, like they have this entire series. Either way, I see them losing this game.
The Rays know they are going to have a brutal matchup in the World Series as they project to be underdogs against either the Braves or the Dodgers, and getting the ability to rest up their starters is going to be huge for them. Most teams that are up 3-0 in a series know they can burn a game or two. The Rays know that isn’t the case for them, as they need those days off to get these arms rested and ready for what is sure to be a battle in the Fall Classic.
Expect the Rays to do whatever it takes to win this game tonight. Don’t be shocked when some guy you have never heard of makes a play you have never seen before, that wins them the game. It is how the Rays do business, and they wouldn’t want it any other way. Give me the Tampa Bay Rays tonight, as small favorites, laying -140, in game four of the American League Championship Series!