The 2020 MLB League Championship Series are upon us. What began as 16 teams are squaring off to determine this year’s World Series champion, has now come down to four. While it’s hard to think that there won’t be an asterisk next to the 2020 title, a champion will be crowned.
The MLB is a fickle beast. Star-driven and tank-friendly, teams in the dumpster one year can be the king of the mountain the next. With that, stakes are high for almost every team as they push for World Series Glory.
We’re looking at each LCS and diving into what’s at stake for each team, how they stack up, and the keys to victory for each squad.
So, let’s check-in ahead of the ALCS between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Houston Astros.
These two teams have not faced each other in 2020 due to the shortened season. In 2019, Tampa Bay won four of the seven matchups with Houston, but the Astros outscored the Rays by 13 runs over those games.
Houston also defeated the Rays in five games in the 2019 ALDS.
This is the first ALCS appearance by the Rays since 2008 and their ALDS win vs. the Yankees was the first postseason series win for Kevin Cash in his six seasons as Tampa Bay’s manager.
Tampa Bay’s Keys to Victory:
On offense, Tampa Bay has one of the hottest hitters in baseball in Randy Arozarena. The Rays slugger has a slash line of .444/.500/.926 with 3 home runs over seven playoff games this year.
The Rays will also need to lean on two key pieces of their lineup who performed well against the Astros in last year’s playoffs. Wily Adames had a 1.423 OPS with two home runs in the 2019 ALDS, while Ji-Man Choi had a .855 OPS with one home run.
For their pitching, the Rays need to spell redemption G-l-a-s-n-o-w as their prized starter could not make it out of the fifth inning in either of his 2019 ALDS starts vs. Houston.
Houston’s Keys to Victory:
Well, the bats woke up. Houston averaged nearly nine runs a game during the ALDS vs. Oakland after being a fairly pedestrian offense during the 2020 shortened season.
The lineup from 1-6 performed like they could erase all the trash can talk with one swing as they had the following output over four games vs. the Athletics:
The Astros probably can’t be expected to have at least five hitters with OPS’s over 1.000 during this series, but they need this part of their lineup to continue to thrive to be able to get to their second straight World Series.
On the bump, Zack Greinke needs to erase the memory of his 2019 ALDS performance against Tampa Bay when he didn’t last four innings while giving up six earned runs and three home runs (Keirmaier/Choi/B. Lowe). The Astros are going to need Greinke to pitch like an ace throughout the series to come out on top.
Final Call: RAYS in 7 Games
An Astros-Dodgers rematch would be sweet (and let’s be honest, great for content!). But the Rays have that team of destiny feel in these playoffs.
The Astros have been able to take advantage of short series vs. the Twins and Athletics, but unless the majority of their order continues to hit like 2002 Barry Bonds it seems unlikely they will repeat as AL Pennant winners.
The baseball world has been calling for someone to give the Astros their come-uppance ever since their scandal broke. It seems fitting it’s going to be done by a bunch of guys no one else could see the value in.
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