Houston Astros vs. Tampa Bay Rays ALCS Game 1 Pick
Houston Astros (34-32) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (45-22)
When: 7:37 p.m., Sunday, October 11
Where: Petco Park, San Diego
Starting Pitchers: Framber Valdez (2-0, 1.50 ERA, 0.83 WHIP in the postseason) vs. Blake Snell (1-1, 3.38 ERA, 1.03 WHIP in the postseason)
Moneyline: HOU +140/TB -150 (BetOnline)
Runline: Astros +1.5/Rays -1.5
Rest or Rust?
The unique nature of the ALCS inside a bubble means that we’re facing completely uncharted territory. First, there’s the worry about whether Tampa Bay will bounce back against the Astros less than 48 hours after having dismissed the Yankees. I’ve got to say that we need to worry more about how it affects the Astros, given that they actually had to travel after winning their series (the Astros played the ALDS at Dodger Stadium). Not having to travel for the first game can be a big thing, and that would give the Rays an edge.
The other question is whether the Astros will be ready to go after getting extra time off following the end of their series with Oakland. Baseball players get into a rhythm under normal circumstances, and anything that disrupts that rhythm can throw a team off for a game or two. With Houston getting back to a somewhat normal playoff schedule, will the Astros and their play be unaffected, or will the layoff give Tampa Bay an extra edge?
House of Horrors?
After Blake Snell’s first start of his career at Petco Park, he could be forgiven if he never wanted to pitch in San Diego again. Petco is well known as a pitcher’s park, but Snell couldn’t keep the ball in the park against the Yankees in the ALDS, giving up three home runs in five innings of work and never giving the Rays a chance to stay in the game.
But there is reason to believe that this game might give Snell a chance to bounce back. For one, the Astros have not seen Snell this year, while the Yankees had already gone up against him and seen what he could do this year. Plus, the Astros’ lineup didn’t hit home runs at the same pace as the Yankees’ lineup. Houston comes off a great performance at the plate against Oakland, but New York’s lineup hit 20 more home runs than the Astros did during the regular season. Plus, the Astros don’t really have anyone who hits lefties well except for Alex Bregman, and they only hit .232 as a team against left-handed pitching.
Get It In Play
Here’s something that you might not know: one of these teams really excels at getting the ball in play, and the other really doesn’t. Houston had the best plate discipline of anyone in baseball in 2020, striking out just 440 times this season. Tampa Bay topped the majors with 608 strikeouts on the campaign. You could make an argument that the pitching just wasn’t that good in the AL West, while the Rays had to face the likes of Gerrit Cole multiple times, but the Astros did also have to face the Dodgers and their pitching during this abbreviated season. Plus, the Rays also got to play the Red Sox and Orioles for 1/3 of their games.
With a pair of lefties on the mound who routinely miss bats, this game could come down to plate discipline. If it does, Houston will be in much better shape.
- The Astros have won eight straight playoff games as an underdog.
- The Astros have won five of their past six.
- The Astros are 4-9 in their past 13 following a win.
- The Rays are 5-2 in their past seven playoff games.
- The Rays have won four straight playoff games as a favorite.
- The under is 7-1-1 in the Rays’ past nine when they scored two or less in the previous game.
- The under is 7-2 in the Rays’ past nine playoff games as a favorite.
- The under is 22-5-2 in the past 29 meetings when the Rays bat last.
The wind will come in at 10 miles an hour toward the first base dugout, with temperatures at around 73 degrees at the first pitch.
I’m not sold that Snell has figured out how to pitch at Petco, and the Astros really didn’t miss pitches all that often in 2020, especially compared to the Rays. Houston might be the villains of baseball because of the trash can scandal, but there have been no trash cans in 2020, and the Astros still hit well and rarely strikeout.
If Snell isn’t getting strikeouts, he’s not likely to be getting a win. I’m going with the live dog and taking Houston.