The Tampa Bay Rays pushed the Houston Astros to the brink of elimination Tuesday night with a 5-2 victory in Arlington, Tex. Tampa Bay holds a 3-0 series lead, and with a win on Wednesday, they will advance to the World Series for the first time since 2008. The Rays have never won a World Series.
Oddsmakers favor the Rays at (-139) on the moneyline, while the Astros are (+125). However, the runline for Game 4 is Rays -1.5 at (+115). The first pitch for Wednesday night’s game is scheduled for 8:40 P.M. Eastern on TBS.
Houston Astros – Sort Yourselves Out
The Astros completely unraveled in the sixth inning of Game 3. It all started with a routine ground ball to second. With a chance to turn a double play, José Altuve rushed a throw to second base and sent it into left field, putting runners at first and second with no outs.
As the inning continued, Enoli Paredes hit Kevin Kiermaier and Willy Adames with pitches, the former loading the bases and the latter driving in a run. Tampa Bay’s five-run inning was enough to hold on for the 5-2 victory.
Altuve has committed three throwing errors in the ALCS and four errors through eight games in the 2020 playoffs. The errors are uncharacteristic for Altuve, who had only committed two errors in his previous 47 playoff games, and did not make a throwing error in the regular season. Altuve’s career fielding percentage is .985, and he won a Gold Glove in 2015.
While the errors are certainly a factor in the 3-0 ALCS deficit, they are far from the leading causes. The Astros have scored five runs over three games. In 2020, that’s not enough run support to win games. Perhaps more frustrating for Houston fans is that the Astros have left 29 runners on base through three games – more than one left on per inning. They are batting .240 with runners in scoring position.
Zack Greinke will take the mound for Houston in Game 4. Greinke has struggled in the postseason, failing to record a decision or quality start in either of his two appearances and allowing five earned runs in 8.2 innings. In the regular season, Greinke was 3-3 with a 4.03 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 67 innings.
With their backs to the wall, the Astros will need to tighten up defensively and string a few clutch hits together to keep their season alive.
Tampa Bay Rays – Stay Focused
Tampa Bay has a golden opportunity in front of them to sweep the Astros and advance to the World Series. Tyler Glasnow will take the mound for Game 4, and the Rays have won each of his last 11 starts. The pitching staff has been excellent, allowing two runs or fewer in four of their previous five games.
The Rays defense has played a huge part in their postseason success. Whether it’s Kiermaier leaping at the wall to take away a home run or Hunter Renfroe laying out to rob a base hit, Tampa Bay’s defense has left opposing hitters frustrated throughout the playoffs. Their team fielding percentage of .992 is the highest among all 2020 playoff teams.
Randy Arozarena has been a revelation in the outfield and at the plate. He finished fourth on the team in batting average at .281 in the regular season but has been hitting the cover off the ball this postseason. Arozarena is batting a whopping .462, with eight of his 18 hits going for extra bases.
With his three-hit performance in Game 3, Arozarena became just the 5th player in MLB postseason history to record four three-hit games in the same postseason (the others are Altuve in 2017, Albert Pujols in 2004, Edgar Martinez in 1995, and Jay Buhner in 1995). If Arozarena stays hot, he has a chance to make baseball history with his next three-hit game, as no player has recorded five three-hit games in a single postseason.
If there’s a weak point in the Rays’ performance, it would be their plate discipline. The Rays have struck out 104 times in ten playoff games. If Greinke can get Tampa Bay to chase at the plate early, the Astros have a good chance to keep the game close.
Get Your Brooms Out
The Astros and Rays are two clubs heading in different directions. The Astros snuck into the playoffs as a sub-.500 team, while the Rays rolled into the playoffs as the first-place team in the American League.
The Rays have momentum, while the Astros are looking for answers. Beating any team four times in a row is tough, especially in baseball. The Rays will find the way to win and advance Wednesday night.
FREE PICK: Tampa Bay Rays (-139)