The Houston Astros will try to wrap up the American League Division Series and advance to the American League Championship Series when they take on the host Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday. Tampa Bay stayed alive in the series with a 10-3 victory over the Astros on Monday in the first game of the series played in Tampa.
The Rays looked like a different team in Game 3 than the one that dropped the first two contests in Houston, though Tampa Bay had the exact same record at home as it did on the road — 48-33 — in the regular season. Houston will be looking to advance to its third straight ALCS, with the New York Yankees having already advanced with a sweep of the Minnesota Twins.
The moneyline for this game has the Houston Astros -250 and the Tampa Bay Rays +215. The over/under for the contest has been set at 7.5.
Going For It
Rather than wait for a Game 5 at home with a rested Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole available to pitch, the Astros aren’t messing around, going with Verlander on three days rest to try to close it out in this game. Verlander was masterful in Game 1, going seven innings and allowing just one hit while striking out eight. He has plenty of playoff experience, having made 25 previous starts in the postseason.
The Astros haven’t exactly been lighting up the scoreboard in this series, scoring a total of 12 runs over three games. Houston scored the third-most runs in the American League in the regular season, and while the playoffs are a different game, the Astros need to start scoring to take the pressure off of their pitchers to carry the load. Jose Altuve has been the power in the lineup, with two doubles and two home runs through the first three games of this series. Alex Bregman has also been solid, batting .444 with a double and a home run.
The Rays don’t want to go to Tyler Glasnow, their Game 1 starter, on three days rest, so Game 4 will be a bullpen game, with Diego Castillo taking the mound to start. The 25-year-old already has two playoff appearances in his first postseason, going a total of 3 2/3 innings in relief and allowing just three hits and no runs. The right-hander was 5-8 in the regular season with eight saves, making six starts and 65 total appearances.
Tampa Bay’s offense looked completely different in Game 3, with four home runs and 10 runs to blow out the Astros. Can they do the same thing with Verlander on the mound? Getting Austin Meadows and Tommy Pham hitting would help. Pham does lead the team with a .375 average in this series, though he has just two RBI and has struck out three times. Meadows is batting .214 with two doubles and three RBI, but both need to come up big — especially early — against Verlander to give the Rays some confidence they can pull out the win.
Houston Moves On
As well as Tampa Bay played on Monday, it seems unlikely they’ll beat Houston two in a row, especially with Verlander on the mound. The veteran has a 14-7 record in postseason games with a career 3.05 ERA, and he’s at his best when his team needs a big performance. Look for Verlander to dominate the Rays once again, and the Astros to move on. I’m taking Houston -250 to close out the series.