The Houston Astros once led 2-0 in the ALDS vs. the Rays but are faced with a win-or-go-home Game 5 at home. But how worried should the Astros be?
The Astros were unable to close out the Rays for a second straight game in Tampa Bay and head back home with Gerrit Cole taking the mound for Game 5 on Thursday night. After dropping two straight games and the pressure reverting to the Astros, how worried should they be in this elimination game?
With Cole taking the mound? Not that worried at all.
It’s a high-pressure situation, but Cole has been invincible all season as one of the favorites to win the Cy Young with his teammate, Justin Verlander. Cole is coming off a brilliant start in Game 2 when he fanned 15 over 7.2 innings of four-hit, shutout ball in Houston’s 3-1 win.
Verlander was unable to seal the deal in Game 4 when he was pitching on short rest. That’s always a calculated gamble in the postseason. It was the right decision by manager A.J. Hinch to start Verlander but the results just weren’t there. Credit the Rays bats for taking advantage of Verlander who was less than his normal sharp self.
The Astros will be opposed by starter Tyler Glasnow and potentially piggy-backer by 2018 Cy Young winner Blake Snell who got the final two outs in Game 4. And they will have the full complement of a loaded bullpen that has phenomenal strikeout rates. Plus they could use Charlie Morton out of the bullpen. Glasnow is a future ace with closer stuff and a fastball that can live in the triple-digits. Glasnow gave up two runs in 4.1 innings in Game 1 while Snell allowed one run in 3.1 innings in Game 2.
Of course, when you get to the playoffs, you are going to face great pitchers and be challenged. The Astros are no stranger to this and that’s why the team and their fans should be feeling confident despite dropping two road games.
With Cole on the mound, they should be extremely confident, but with Cole on the mound in Houston, and they should be ready to close this series out and move on to the ALCS.
The Astros led MLB with a 60-21 home record.
Best pitcher playing at home where the team has the best record in baseball?
That’s a pretty great scenario for the Astros to take advantage of a good Rays team who should be credited for stretching the series to five games. To be fair, as great as the Astros were at home, the Rays were outstanding on the road. Tampa Bay went 48-33 on the road — the same record they had at home — which was second in MLB to the Minnesota Twins who went 55-26.
On a scale of 1-10, I’d put the Astros level of worry at a 4. They have to respect their opponent, their record on the road and the arms and lineup they’ll contend with. But the greatest equalizer is the potential Cy Young winner taking the mound for Houston. Look for Cole to have another masterful outing as he had in Game 2 and as he had for the whole season when he had the best season of his MLB career.