HOUSTON — One more win.
That’s all that stands between the Tampa Bay Rays and arguably the greatest ALDS upset in postseason history. Forget the fact they fell down 0-2, although that makes the argument even stronger, this seemed like a lopsided series, on paper, up against the 107-win, juggernaut Houston Astros. Only a dozen teams in the history of the game won more regular-season games than that.
Now, the Rays have baseball’s best team on the ropes, with all the momentum on their side, having won two in a row to even the series. Another victory in Game 5 Thursday night in Houston and they’ll accomplish what Kevin Kiermaier said they set out to do when the playoffs started: Shock the world.
Here are 5 things to know ahead of Game 5
Let’s start with a clash of former teammates
The Astros will rely on Gerrit Cole to shut down the Rays in Game 5, something he did to the tune of 7.2 scoreless innings and 15 strikeouts on Saturday. Opposite Cole will be Rays starter Tyler Glasnow, who has pitched well after a nearly four-month break, recovering from a forearm strain.
The pair of pitchers are old pals. They used to be on the same staff, in Pittsburgh, in 2016. Cole was the Pirates ace, while Glasnow was trying to find his way, having just broken into the league.
Years later, they’ll face off for a chance to clinch a spot in the ALCS.
History actually is on the Rays’ side this time
Before Game 3, the Rays faced a 0-2 deficit and basically, according to MLB stats, had a 3 percent chance of coming back to win the series. Seeing as it was the mighty Astros, that felt like zero.
The task of taking beating Houston three times in a row still seems pretty daunting, but in this one-game sample, history is actually on the Rays side. Here are some stats to back that:
- The Rays have won their last three road elimination games
- They’re 4-1 in their previous five elimination games overall.
- According to STATS LLC, teams that once trailed 0-2 in a best-of-five series have a 10-6 record in the winner-take-all Game 5.
- And, per STATS LLC, in Division Series history, the road team is 19-13 in decisive Game 5’s.
So, if you wanted a few numbers to back up your reasoning why the Rays will win Game 5, you’re welcome. But, don’t go popping the champagne just yet.
Houston doesn’t have a problem at home
There’s a reason the money is on the Astros to win and advance to the ALCS. They just don’t lose at home. Minute Maid Park has been a safe haven for Houston all year.
The Astros became the 13th team in MLB history, and first since the 1998 Yankees, to win at least 60 home games (60-21).
They don’t lose often in their own building, but if it’s any help, the Rays did beat them in Houston back on August 29.
Welcome to the Willy show
Superstars are made in October, and the Rays think they have a future stud in shortstop Willy Adames. “The Kid” shined bright in Game 4, with an epic relay throw to get Jose Altuve at the plate, followed by a home run off Justin Verlander in home half of the inning, and his heroics might not be over.
Adames is the first Ray to homer in back-to-back postseason games since B.J. Upton, in Games 5-6 of the 2008 ALCS against the Red Sox.
If he hits another in Game 5, he’ll be in rare air in Rays lore.
Expect to see Nick Anderson at a pivotal point in the game
The best Rays reliever this season has, arguably, been a guy they’ve only had since the trade deadline. Anderson is special, and he’s been pitching in some high-leverage situations for Kevin Cash’s club.
How unhittable has he been?
Since joining the Rays, Anderson has faced 91 batters. He has struck out 46 of them, allowed just 16 hits and walked only one batter. That’s mind-numbing.
And to think, I was critical of the Rays for trading away “The Opener” Ryne Stanek to get Anderson. Thought it was foolish and desperate. Who’s the fool now?
No doubt, Anderson will be on the mound during a critical at-bat in Houston. Safe bet he’ll probably strike a few guys out in the process.
What: Game 5 of the American League Division Series
Who: Tampa Bay Rays vs. Houston Astros
Where: Minute Maid Park - Houston, TX
When: Thursday, Oct. 10 at 7:07 p.m. ET
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