MLB Playoffs 2020 – Rays-Astros ALCS is a clash between the top seed and the reigning AL champions

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We’ve gotten used to seeing the Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series. The Tampa Bay Rays? Not really.The Astros fought their way into their fourth straight ALCS, the longest streak since the 1998-2001 Yankees. Houston scored 33 points and hit 12 home runs in their four-game series win over the A. Carlos Correa led the resurgence of the Astros’ offense in the playoffs, with four home runs, 12 RBIs, an average of .500 and 1,715 OPS in six games.

The Rays make the second ALCS appearance in franchise history; they beat the Red Sox in seven games in 2008 before losing to the Phillies in the World Series. The LA’s top seed, the Rays are solid in every facet of the game with surprisingly deep roster, stable starting pitchers and a series of motorized arms in the bullpen.

Chances say …

The Rays have a 63.3% chance of winning the series. (ESPN’s Bradford Doolittle Screenings)

How they got here

Rays: Powered by a dominant throwing staff that has three potential aces in Blake Snell, Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow, Tampa Bay ran away with the AL East run and edged out Oakland for the league’s highest score. Brandon Lowe was the only true offensive standout in a lineup that finished 12th in majors with 289 points scored and produced a tag team OPS of 0.753.

Série Wild-Card: Defeated Toronto 2-0

AL Division Series: Defeated New York 3-2


Astros: Despite ending the regular season with a 29-31 record, the Astros earned an automatic playoff berth by finishing second in the American Western League. Reduced by injuries during the year, the offense was 14th in majors with 279 runs scored and the pitching staff had the 13th best score in the MLB at 4.31.

Série Wild-Card: Defeated Minnesota 2-0

AL Division Series: Defeat Oakland 3-1


Series schedule

in San Diego

Game 1: Sunday October 11, TBS
Game 2: Monday October 12, TBS
Game 3: Tuesday October 13, TBS
Game 4: Wednesday October 14, TBS
Thu 5: Thursday October 15, TBS (if necessary)
Thu 6: Friday October 16, TBS (if necessary)
Thu 7: Saturday October 17, TBS (if necessary)


Three reasons why the Rays will win the series

1. They’ve been the best team in the American League all season

The Rays went 40-20, outscored the Blue Jays and passed the tough Yankees. Maybe they don’t have any superstars, but their 28-man roster is AL’s deepest and that becomes even more important in a seven-game streak with no days off than in the first two rounds. They have five quality starting pitchers if they use all five (rookie Josh Fleming is the 5th starter and he went 5-0 with a 2.78 ERA). A week ago, no one had heard of Pete Fairbanks and he comes out of the pen firing lasers at 100mph high over the strike zone. A week ago, no one had heard of Randy Arozarena and now he is one of the stars of October.

More importantly, this is a team that knows they can win. It incorporates all the weird aspects that the Rays deploy, like the first game or the four-way defensive roster in the outfield or in all squads. They pride themselves on being the little engine that could. They’re a good defensive team, they can hit home runs and they can even surprise you with a stolen base.

2. Randy Arozarena, best player on the planet

Speaking of the rookie outfielder, if we were to nitpick the Rays, it wouldn’t be that any player in the roster really scares you. Brandon Lowe has been the best hitter of the regular season and is certainly underrated, with a .269 / .362 / .554 line and 14 home runs, but he’s also a strike-prone guy and he’s fallen. Enter Arozarena, acquired from the Cardinals during the offseason. The 25-year-old Cuban tested positive for COVID-19, so he only played on August 30. He then hit seven home runs in September in 59 at batting and three more against the Yankees. At the moment, you can’t get a fastball from him: indeed, nine of his 10 home runs have come against either fastballs (seven) or pellet (two).

3. They correspond to the Astros

With a roster that includes just three lefties, Michael Brantley, Kyle Tucker and Josh Reddick, the Astros only took advantage of the field for 43.2% of the time in the regular season, the lowest of the majors. Yes, three of Tampa Bay’s five starters are left-handed (Snell, Ryan Yarbrough and Fleming), but they have a plethora of powerful right-handed people to go after all those right-handed Houston hitters. Including the playoffs, the righties hit .197 against Glasnow, but look at the numbers from the reading box: .114 against Nick Anderson, .159 against Diego Castillo, .208 against Aaron Slegers, .224 against Fairbanks, .252 against John Curtiss. Sidearmer Ryan Thompson was actually the least effective of the group, allowing an average of .276, but he trusted in high-leverage situations in the playoffs (and could serve as an opener in Yarbrough and / or Fleming). And then on offense, the Rays can go with their right-handed roster against Framber Valdez and their left-handed roster against right-handed rookies, with guys available on the bench to counter moves from Dusty Baker’s bullpen.

Three reasons why the Astros will win the series

1. The offense is back

The 2019 Astros, according to advanced metric weighted races created (adjusted for park and era), had the second-best offense of all time, behind only the famous 1927 Yankees. In 2020, the Astros ranked 17th … in the major ones. It was quite a downfall, with many possible explanations, but the Astros crushed a very strong Oakland pitching staff in four games in the divisional series, hitting .332 / .388 / .594 with 12 homers. Carlos Correa has been locked up, with four homers and 12 RBIs in six playoff games, but perhaps the best sign is that Jose Altuve (two homers, .429 OBP) looked a lot better after a miserable regular season.

Four games doesn’t necessarily mean the Astros suddenly changed everything, but it certainly sounded like the lineup we saw in 2019 (minus injured Yordan Alvarez). Keep that in mind, too: While they struggled at times in the regular season, the Astros had the lowest strikeout rate in the majors. You have to win your outs against Houston.

“It’s just our normal offense,” Kyle Tucker said after beating the A’s. “We haven’t shown it too much during the season, but this formation can do it every night. This 1 to 9 lineup can happen anytime and we were doing that the whole series. ”

2. Framber Valdez throws like an ace

The 26-year-old southpaw made his majors debut in 2018 and had been an interesting prospect, but over 100 innings in the majors in 2018 and 2019, mostly in relief, he struggled to command the strike zone, with an average of 5.7 steps for nine. innings and showing an ERA of 4.60. He’s had a quiet, strong regular season going 5-3 with a 3.57 ERA, just 2.0 walks for nine and an even better PIF of 2.85. In two playoffs – a five-inning backup appearance against the Twins and a Game 1 win against the As – he gave up two runs and seven hits in 12 innings.

Valdez’s curveball is his best pitch as hitters have hit .124 against him in the regular season and .111 so far in the playoffs, and he will pitch it in any account. He gave up two home runs on his start against the As, but even if he gives up a lot of hard contact, it’s usually on the ground with a 60% ground ball rate. He’s good, and right now he’s throwing with a high level of confidence.

3. Enoli Paredes, the pop-up reliever

It seems like every playoffs the eventual World Series champion has someone who gets up in October and becomes a big part of the pen. For the national championships last year, it was veteran Daniel Hudson, acquired in a trade, who made four saves and obtained the last three strikeouts of Game 7 of the World Series. For the Red Sox in 2018, it was Joe Kelly, who had a 4.39 ERA in the regular season and then was off in the playoffs, including six scoreless innings in the World Series. For the Astros, it could well be rookie Paredes, who pitched three perfect innings in two outings against the A’s.

The Houston relievers box had some problems, especially at the start of the season, when it sometimes had nine rookie relievers. Even now, the depth is certainly questionable. Paredes, who had a 3.05 ERA in 20 innings, but only gave up one homerun, relying mostly on a 96 mph fastpitch and slider (he threw his 76 % of the time in his two outings against Oakland). Paredes pitched in Class A and Double-A last year, giving up just 50 hits in 94 innings with 128 strikeouts, so there’s some big stuff here. With the potential to have seven games in seven days, Dusty Baker won’t necessarily be able to use his starters in relief like he did the first two rounds, so look for Paredes to get many of the key innings in the middle of closing the games.

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