ALCS Game 1 Recap: Rays Outlast Astros in Pitching Duelby Andersen Pickard October 12, 2020 0 comments
The Tampa Bay Rays and Houston Astros exchanged blows in a back-and-forth ALCS Game 1 battle on Sunday. In the end, the Rays improved to 1-0 in the best-of-seven series with a 2-1 victory over Houston.
The Rays found their way into the ALCS after a commanding series victory over the New York Yankees in the ALDS, but it came at a price as right-handed pitcher Oliver Drake suffered a right flexor tendon strain that resulted in him getting bumped off the active roster in favor of Trevor Richards. Ahead of the ALCS, Tampa Bay replaced Richards and outfielder Brett Phillips with left-handers Jose Alvarado and Josh Fleming. Meanwhile, Houston edged out the Oakland Athletics in a divisional thriller. Their lone roster change was the omission of rookie outfielder Chas McCormick, who lost his roster spot to right-hander Chase De Jong.
Clearly, both teams felt the need to bolster their pitching staffs with a trip to the World Series on the line. The two clubs confirmed that theory in Game 1 when they combined for just three runs.
The Astros jumped out to a commanding lead and looked like the clear better team after one inning of play. Jose Altuve clobbered a home run in the top of the first off of Blake Snell while Framber Valdez struck out all three Tampa Bay batters in the bottom of the inning. The Astros, already leading 1-0, could have added extra insurance to their lead in the third inning when George Springer singled. However, Mike Zunino threw him out at second base, which came back to bite the Astros when Jose Altuve singled just seconds later. Instead of having two runners on and one out, the Astros had two outs and a runner on first base. Michael Brantley flew out to end the inning. The Rays lost a similar situation in the bottom of the third as Kevin Kiermaier was thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple.
The Astros added four base runners in the top of the fourth but failed to score thanks to a line-drive double play with runners on first and second and no outs. Tampa Bay equalized the game at one run apiece when Randy Arozarena hit a home run in the bottom of the fourth. The Rays added another run in the fifth inning when Mike Zunino‘s single plated Willy Adames, who had patiently moved his way up to third through a sequence of hits and ground-outs. John Curtiss replaced Snell in the top of the sixth and escaped a first-and-third jam to preserve Tampa Bay’s 2-1 lead.
Curtiss was replaced in the seventh by Ryan Thompson, who fired a scoreless frame. Minutes later, Houston made a pitching change of their own when they replaced Valdez with Blake Taylor. Kiermaier stroked a lead-off double, Zunino struck out, and Mike Brosseau was hit by a pitch before Taylor was pulled, leaving Enoli Paredes in a first-and-second jam with just one out. He persevered, though, striking out Arozarena and Brandon Lowe to end the inning. Aaron Loup replaced Thompson in the top of the eighth and faced four batters, hitting one, striking out another, walking the third, and allowing a single to the fourth. However, Diego Castillo replaced him and got Yuli Gurriel to hit into an inning-ending double play. Brooks Raley replaced Paredes for Houston in the bottom of the frame and allowed two runners but escaped without a run to his name.
Tampa Bay took the field in the ninth with Castillo on the mound despite concerns about his availability. Nevertheless, he prevailed. Aledmys Diaz flew out, Josh Reddick singled, and Springer grounded out. With two outs, Jose Altuve, who got the scoring started with a first-inning home run, strode up to the plate. Castillo got him to fall behind in the count, 1-2, and finished him off with an 89 mph slider, securing the 2-1 win for Tampa Bay.
Houston edged out Tampa Bay in the hits column, 9-6, despite the loss. Altuve and Alex Bregman both finished with multi-hit performances. Astros batters struck out five times, walked four, and stranded 18 teammates. Houston’s pitching staff recorded a solid game but received little assistance from the offense. Valdez allowed two runs over six innings, striking out eight batters. Paredes struck out the two batters he faced while Raley also added two strikeouts in his one inning of work.
As for the Rays, Arozarena added a solo home run early on. However, it was Zunino’s single in the fifth that proved to be the difference-maker. Kiermaier was the lone Rays hitter who finished with multiple hits as he logged two doubles. In terms of pitching, the Rays’ bullpen looked brilliant. After Blake Snell allowed one run on six hits over five innings, the relievers allowed no runs on three hits over four innings. Castillo provided much-needed relief after Aaron Loup started to look shaky in the eighth inning. Despite concerns about his availability, Castillo threw an impressive 1.2 innings of baseball as the Rays held on to win.
The Rays and Astros meet again on Monday for a critical Game 2. Momentum is always important, but that is especially true in a pitching-heavy postseason series. Lance McCullers Jr. will take the mound for Houston while Charlie Morton toes the rubber for the Rays.
Date: Monday, Oct. 12 at 4:07 p.m. EST
Stadium: Petco Park
Location: San Diego, Calif.
Astros’ Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. | 0-0, 9.00 ERA
Rays’ Pitcher: Charlie Morton | 1-0, 1.80 ERA
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images