In a showdown of teams with Orange Juice ballpark sponsors, it could come down to which team is more freshly squeezed
The Houston Astros will have home-field advantage for this best-of-five series against the AL Wild Card winning Tampa Bay Rays. Houston is the #1 overall seed in the AL and MLB while Tampa Bay was the second wild card team in.
Friday: TB at HOU Game 1, 2:05 p.m., FS1
Saturday: TB at HOU Game 2, 9:07 p.m., FS1
Monday, Oct. 7: HOU at TB Game 3, MLB Network
Tuesday, Oct. 8: HOU at TB G4 (if necessary), FS1
Thursday, Oct. 10: TB at HOU G5 (if necessary), FS1
The Rays won the season series 4-3, with the Astros dropping 3 of 4 to open the season on the road and taking 2 of 3 at home in late August. It should be noted though that the season-opening series was a low-scoring affair at Tropicana Field with the teams only combining for 20 runs in the 4-game set while the second series featured a total of 47 runs scored with Houston outscoring the Rays 31-16 in the three-game set.
Notable as well is that the series at the end of August saw the Rays facing the probable Houston starters in the ALDS, mustering 4 and 5 runs off of Gerrit Cole and Zach Greinke in games two and three, while getting shut out by Verlander in five innings of work in game one. Based on past results, so much for Houston’s dominant starting rotation against the Rays.
Interesting Astros Statistic
In 87 games for the Astros this season, Yordan Alvarez has split .313/.412/.655 with 27 HR and 78 RBI and has the fourth best WAR among Astros hitters at 3.8. He and legit MVP candidate Alex Bregman have created a dynamic 1-2 punch in the middle of the Astros lineup, which will be the biggest concern for Rays pitching in this series. If you want to see exactly what kind of power Yordan has, check out this video of his dingers. I for one, could watch it on a loop all day long.
Interesting Rays Statistic
In the regular season, Tampa Bay went 96-66 with identical records of 43-33 at home and on the road. However, they scored more runs on the road (403) than they did at home (366), while having a lower home ERA of 3.36 compared to a 3.96 ERA on the road. Those statistics are enough reason for Rays fans to be hopeful of snagging at least one game on the road.
Astros X-Factor: Carlos Correa
Carlos Correa is expected to return the Astros lineup for Game 1 on Friday, after missing the last week of the season to a back injury. In 75 games for the Astros in the regular season, Correa slashed .279/.358/.568 with 21 HR and 59 RBI. Adding his bat back to the lineup makes a dangerous lineup even more daunting.
Rays X-Factor: Pitching Staff
In the regular season, the Rays had the third lowest staff ERA in the bigs at 3.67, coincidentally 0.01 points behind their ALDS opponent Astros. More noteworthy than that one statistic though, is that the Rays staff ranked top three or best in the regular season in ERA, K/9, BB/9, HR/9, IP, FIP, xFIP, and WAR. If there is a pitching staff in the postseason that could shut down the Astros lineup, its this one.
Prediction: Astros in 4.
I don’t think there is any way the Astros drop a game at home in this series. They’ve been too good there this season, going 60-21 while drinking that sweet, sweet Minute Maid nectar. I would expect the Rays to steal game 3 once the series shifts to The Trop, but the Astros’ lineup is too deep and their pitching staff is capable, at worst, of matching the Rays. Look for at least two lopsided wins from the ‘Stros and a 3-1 series victory. Hopefully they seize a golden opportunity for fruit-juice-based trolling and take cartons of Minute Maid with them to The Trop to celebrate with post-game mimosas in the locker room.