|10:05 AM PT11:05 AM MT12:05 PM CT1:05 PM ET13:05 ET17:05 GMT1:05 10:05 AM MST12:05 PM EST12:35 PM VEN21:05 UAE12:05 PM CT, October 7, 2019
Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Florida Attendance: 32,251
Rays turn to Morton to keep season alive vs. Astros
Houston Astros at Tampa Bay Rays
- The Astros took a 2-0 lead in this series with a 3-1 victory on Saturday. All-time, teams up 2-0 in a best-of-5 postseason series have gone on to win that series 87.7 percent of the time (71/81).
- Gerrit Cole followed up seven shutout, one-hit innings from Justin Verlander in Game 1 by striking out an Astros playoff record 15 batters in Game 2. Verlander and Cole combined to strike out 23 batters over the first two games, the most by any team's first two starting pitchers in a single postseason all-time.
- Former Astro Charlie Morton was the winning pitcher for the Rays in the AL Wild Card game, becoming the first pitcher in MLB history to earn the win in three winner-take-all playoff games (also 2017 ALCS Game 7 and 2017 World Series Game 7). Morton faced Houston twice in 2019, allowing eight earned runs on 10 hits across nine innings.
- This will be the 12th career postseason start for Zack Greinke, and his first as an American Leaguer. Greinke owns a 4.03 ERA in his career in the playoffs; the last time he pitched in the postseason was in 2017 with Arizona, where he had a 7.27 ERA in two starts with six walks compared to just five strikeouts.
- It has been a balanced attack for the Astros so far on offense in this series: six players have combined for Houston's seven RBI, while four different players have at least three hits, and seven have at least two. The Astros are 8-1 in the divisional round (ALDS) of the playoffs since 2017, and have won six straight games overall in this round.
- After going 3-for-4 with two home runs against the A's in the Wild Card game, Yandy Diaz is 0-for-8 with three strikeouts and four men left on base in the ALDS against Houston. Tommy Pham and Austin Meadows have combined for five of Tampa Bay's 11 hits overall in this series.
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Veteran right-hander Charlie Morton looks to go 2-0 in potential postseason elimination games in the last six days, this time against his former team, when the Tampa Bay Rays try to stay alive in the American League Division Series in Game 3 against the visiting Houston Astros on Monday afternoon.
The Astros (2-0), top-seeded in the AL playoffs, have suffocated the Rays (0-2) with brilliant starting pitching in the first two games of the series, getting a combined 14 2/3 innings of five-hit, shutout ball from Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole in 6-2 and 3-1 wins.
Houston's third top-notch starter, right-hander Zack Greinke (18-5, 2.93), will get first crack at clinching the best-of-five series and sending the Astros to the AL Championship Series for the third straight year.
Morton (1-0, 0.00) has not taken a loss in his last five postseason appearances, four of which he made for the Astros in 2017 and 2018. He went the final four innings of the 2017 World Series-clinching victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 7.
The 35-year-old was brilliant in his first postseason effort for the Rays, limiting the Oakland Athletics to one unearned run in five innings last Wednesday in a 5-1 road win in the AL wild-card game.
He faced the Astros twice in the regular season with mixed results. He beat them with five innings of three-hit ball in the opening series of the year at home, but then was bombed for six runs, including a Robinson Chirinos homer, in four innings in a blowout loss at Houston in August.
He's just 4-6 with a 6.28 ERA against the Astros in 11 career head-to-head matchups, all starts.
Rays manager Kevin Cash said he believed just the sight of Morton taking the field in Oakland last week, after the Rays had scored a run in the top of the first, comforted his generally postseason-inexperienced club.
"When the first inning ended, I kind of said to myself, 'We were fortunate to have Charlie Morton on the mound,'" Cash noted to reporters afterward. "We get the 1-0 lead. A young pitcher in that situation, that environment, you just wonder how he's going to be able to handle that.
"But Charlie, been there, done that. His veteran experience, I think, allowed that."
Greinke has the same 4-6 record but with a better ERA (3.36) in 17 career meetings (14 starts) against the Rays.
He didn't get a decision when pulled after 5 2/3 innings in a 9-8 home loss to Tampa Bay in August, having allowed five runs, including homers by Austin Meadows and Travis d'Arnaud.
Astros third baseman Alex Bregman has been the offensive star of the series so far, going 3-for-6 with a home run, two walks and four runs scored. He boasted after Game 2 that having Greinke lined up for the next game gives the Astros a good feeling.
"Just like Verlander and Cole, he studies," Bregman said. "He knows the game of baseball. He knows his strengths, and he has a plan that he's going to try and execute every time he takes the mound. We love playing behind him."
The Astros swept Cleveland when they had the opportunity last season in the ALDS, before getting eliminated by Boston in the ALCS.
The Rays, meanwhile, managed one win against Boston the last time they were in the ALDS in 2013, also having come off a wild-card victory that season.
--Field Level Media
Updated October 6, 2019