Written By: Dylan Moran
Astros vs. Rays: Game 7
It’s a tingle that all sports fans feel. Two words that make a shiver go down your spine. Two words that force you to clear your schedule. “Sorry honey, we can’t go to your mothers tonight!”. It could be hockey, baseball or basketball. It doesn’t matter.
The thrill of win or go home draws more fans to their TV’s than any other game in sports. You don’t even need to be a fan of the team(s) playing. You just want to see the desperation that drives them to compete at the highest level possible.
The losers will stare at the floor, bury their face in their towels, and teammates will go around consoling their friends, letting them know there is always next year. When they find the strength to walk to the locker room, the coach gives a speech about how proud he is of the team that they made it this far.
The winners will jump on the pitcher who made the last strikeout, or the basketball player who makes the game winning shot, or the hockey player who puts the puck in the net. They will cheer, laugh and smile all night as they get ready to face their next opponent or even lift the trophy.
Tonight, the Astros and the Rays will fall into their respective positions.
It’s game 7.
Pitching: Lance McCullers vs. Charlie Morton
We have a rematch of game 2 heading into tonight’s game 7. Morton got the better of McCullers in their first meeting but not by as much as the scoreboard showed. Jose Altuve was going through some “yips” early in this series and a couple of throwing errors resulted in a 3 run home run in the first inning. McCullers did dish out 11 K’s to the Rays who strikeout at extremely high rates. He went 7 strong innings before he was relieved when Mike Zunino homered off of him. Morton and his defense only allowed 5 hits and 1 walk in 5 innings before the Rays bullpen went to work between Peter Fairbanks, Aaron Loup, Ryan Thompson and Nick Anderson.
The good news for both teams is both of these pitchers are on full rest. There are no talks of wear and tear, exhaustion or overuse. They will go out there and do what they do best. For McCullers, that will be fanning batters. For Morton… Well, this is where things get sticky.
He did have 5 K’s in game 2, but for most of the Rays pitching staff, they depend on good defense on grounders and pop ups. That is why Morton racked up 96 pitches in 5 innings in game 2. Strikeouts are not the strength of this pitching staff with the exception of Blake Snell. If the Rays want to finally close out the Astros, they will need more efficiency from the mound.
Hitting: Home Runs vs. Base Hits
If there is a major weakness we have seen down the stretch for the Rays, it is leaving runners on base. It is home run or bust right now and when you are up against McCullers, that is a bad strategy. They were given a gift in that first inning in game 2 as mentioned earlier. A long inning with a few errors gave them an early lead and the momentum. Kevin Cash is going to have to be a lot more aggressive with getting baserunners in scoring position. Stealing bases are my key to victory for the Rays.
The difference for the Astros is that they are not home run dependent. Game 6 showed us that. Scoring summary:
- Springer singled
- Altuve doubled
- Correa singled
- Tucker homer
- Brantley single
- Tucker sac fly
They will need to work Morton early on and even if it does not turn into runs, they need to rack up the pitch count like they did in game 2. Sooner or later, the dam will break and the bullpen will come out. It is by far not a weakness of the Rays, but the Astros have shown success against them in games 4, 5 and 6. That is the Astros key to victory. Rack up the early pitch count and score late to steal the win.
The Final Word:
I don’t care about your feelings on the Astros for tonight. I don’t care if the Rays are the favorites. Nothing matters right now. Throw away the “momentum”, the records, the underdog/favorite betting lines, throw it all away!
It’s game 7.