|HOU (120) @ pinnacle|
My 10* PERFECT STORM is on the Hou Astros at 6:07 ET.
The Astros were able to avoid getting swept by the Rays by winning 4-3 in Game 4. Altuve hit a solo HR in the 1st and then doubled in a run in the second for Houston but Tampa Bay's Arozarena hit a two-run HR to tie it in the fourth, before George Springer's two-run HR put the Astros up 4-2 in the 5th. Zach Greinke got into trouble in the top of the sixth but Dusty Baker went with his 'gut' and decided to leave Greinke in and he delivered by getting out of the inning. Tampa Bay scored once in the 9th but left a runner stranded on third when the game ended. The two teams went with "bullpen" games for Thursday's Game 5, as neither start saw the third inning. George Springer crushed John Curtiss' first pitch over the fence in left field to give the Astros the lead in a game in which they never trailed. Brandon Lowe homered in the third to tie it for Tampa Bay but Houston went up 3-1 on a two-run double by Brantley. Solo shots by Tampa's Arozarena and Choi sent the game to the 9th tied at 3-all. Astros closer Pressley stranded the potential go-ahead run on second base in the top of the ninth, before Carlos Correa belted a walk-off HR with one out in the ninth inning. The game-ending blast came off Nick Anderson, who had entered a tie game in the bottom of the eighth and had retired all four batters he faced before Correa's blast.
As we head to Game 6, here's the setting. The Rays have now lost two in a row but still lead the best-of-seven series 3-2. As for the Astros, they became just the fourth team out of 39 ever to trail a playoff series 3-0 and even force a Game 6. The 2004 Boston Red Sox (in the ALCS against the NYY), are the only team to win a series after losing the opening three games. The Astros attempt to keep their season alive with a third straight win Friday night, as the Game 6 starters are Houston left-hander Framber Valdez and Tampa Bay lefty Blake Snell. It's a rematch of Game 1, which the Rays won 2-1. Framber pitched six innings in that contest, allowing two runs on four hits and four walks, while striking out eight. Snell earned the win by allowing one run on six hits and two walks over five innings with just two Ks.
Snell, the 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner, has opened each of Tampa Bay's three series, sandwiching a loss to the New York Yankees (5 IP / 4 ERs) with wins over Toronto and Houston (10.2 IP / 1 ER). He has allowed five runs on 13 hits with a 15-6 KW ratio over 15.2 innings for a 2.87 ERA. Valdez will also be making his fourth appearance of the 2020 postseason. He entered Game 1 in the 5th inning of Houston's wild card series with Minnesota, with the Astros down 1-0. He delivered FIVE scoreless innings (and just two hits) to earn a 4-1 win when the Astros broke open a 1-1 tie with a three-run ninth. Framber followed with a 5-2 win over Oakland, pitching seven innings two runs allowed on five hits), before his Game 1 loss to Snell and the Rays in Game 1 of this ALCS.
The Rays looked like a "team of destiny" after winning a deciding Game 5 over the NYY and Cole and then taking a 3-0 lead in this series with Houston. However, after back-to-back 4-3 wins by the Astros, it's Houston, not Tampa Bay, that suddenly owns the positive "mojo" heading to Game 6.
This is Snell's fifth season in the majors but I don't think he rates much of an edge at all over Framber (in his 3rd season), who has allowed just four ERs on 11 hits over 18 innings this postseason (2.00 ERA) with a 17-7 KW ratio. This Houston team has played 56 playoff games these last three-plus postseasons, winning EIGHT of 10 series. Can they come back and replicate what the Red Sox did to the Yankees in 2004 (see above)? That is NOT the question here, rather it is can they force a Game 7? That's my bet.