After dropping Game 2 the Tampa Bay Rays will turn to their ace Charlie Morton to save their season in Game 3.
The Houston Astros have dominated the first two games of the ALDS thanks in large part to their two aces in Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. The duo has combined to throw 14.2 innings of scoreless baseball while striking out 23 batters, effectively shutting down the Tampa Bay offense.
But if there is something to take away from these first two games for Tampa Bay it’s that Houston’s bullpen is hittable, scoring all three of their runs in the series off relievers. The Astros are sending veteran Zack Grienke to the mound in Game 3, who allowed five runs to the Rays in their last meeting back on Aug. 29th where OF Austin Meadows and C Travis d’Arnaud both homered.
However, the Rays have yet to hit a home run this the postseason, maybe their fortune changes back home in Tampa Bay. But the Rays were able to push Grienke out of that Aug. 29th game after 93 pitches in 5.2 innings, so seeing pitches and working Grienke’s pitch count may be the gameplan. However, Grienke does lead all Astro starters in first-pitch strikes, getting ahead early in counts 67.3 percent of the time.
But the Rays best chance to beat the Astros is a great game from Charlie Morton, who’s coming off a five-inning shutout win over the Athletics in the AL Wild Card game. Morton has been the rock of this Tampa Bay rotation, putting together an AL Cy-Young worthy season while teammates Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow spent extended time on the IL.
Morton’s been the Rays go-to guy all season and with his impressive postseason resume, Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash wouldn’t want anyone else on the mound in a must-win game. The 35-year-old ace did have a rough outing against Houston back on Aug. 27th, allowing six runs in just 4 innings of work, but in the postseason “Ground Chuck” always ramps it up to another level.
If the Tampa Bay fans can show up to Tropicana Field and the offense can get to Grienke early in Game 3, Morton has the dominating stuff to take over a game and hopefully swing some momentum back towards his ballclub. But for a team that has baseball’s lowest payroll and has been compared to the Island of Misfit Toys, the Rays are no stranger to overcoming the odds.
And with the Rays backs’ against the wall, it just feels like destiny that Charlie Morton would add another incredible postseason performance. This time, against his former team.