Like Blake Snell before him, Charlie Morton battled through five innings, while Manuel Margot hit a three-run homer in the first inning. All that, and great defense, helped the Tampa Bay Rays win their second consecutive game against the Astros, 4-2, in San Diego. Tampa Bay now has a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series.
Morton got the start and allowed five hits, a walk, and hit a batter while striking out five across five scoreless frames on 96 pitches (59 strikes, 61% strike rate, 14% SwStr%). Yet, even with all the traffic on the base paths, Morton limited the Astros scoring chances and held them to 0-5 with runners in scoring position — stranding runners in scoring position in the first four frames.
Tampa Bay took advantage of a defensive miscue in the first inning and turned it into a three-run advantage. Randy Arozarena hit a two-out single to left before Ji-Man Choi grounded into the shift in shallow right. Yet Jose Altuve, making his best Gary Sanchez impersonation, threw the ball low to first, and Yuli Gurriel was unable to hold on to it. Two pitches later, Manuel Margot hammered an 0-1 Lance McCullers curveball to center for an instant lead. Margot hit just one regular-season home run during the regular season, yet he now has three big flys in the playoffs.
The defense was also a big reason the Astros were held scoreless until the sixth inning and otherwise kept them in check. In the second inning Willy Adames prevented a low liner, off the bat of Carlos Correa, from getting through.
Then with runners at second and third and two out, George Springer lifted a ball toward right field, which faded toward the foul line. Margot crossed into foul territory and made a fantastic catch, holding on to the ball after he tumbled over the sidewall.
In the third inning, Adames made an impressive play on a hard-hit ball off the bat of Alex Bregman. Joey Wendle also opened the fifth inning by taking away a potential hit from Jose Altuve on a diving stop.
Pete Fairbanks took over in the sixth inning gave up a solo shot to left-center off the bat of Correa on a 98 mile per hour fastball. It was his fifth homer of the postseason after he hit five during the regular season. Fairbanks locked it in though, retiring the next five consecutive batters while striking out the side in the seventh.
Yet Lance McCullers locked it in after Margot’s home run, as he allowed just the first two batters to reach in the third inning on an error and an Arozarena single. McCullers retired 14 consecutive batters while striking out nine of them.
Mike Zunino broke up McCullers’s hitless stretch by blasting a 96 mph fastball over the wall in left-center, extending the lead back to three. Zunino now has home runs in each playoff series.
McCullers’s night ended with 11 punchouts in seven innings, while he scattered four hits and walked none.
Meanwhile, Aaron Loup got the first two outs of the eighth inning before he gave way to Ryan Thompson after he allowed a Kyle Tucker single. Thompson coaxed a fielder’s choice from Correa, ending the frame.
Things got interesting in the ninth inning against Nick Anderson. Given that prologue builds context, Anderson surrendered five combined hits and three total walks during the regular season. Yet, he allowed a pair of ground ball singles to Yuli Gurriel and Josh Reddick to begin the inning before Aledmys Diaz, who pinch-hit for Martin Maldonado, shot a single into center, loading the bases. George Springer hit the next pitch into a 4-3 double play, as Gurriel scored to bring Houston within two. The right-hander followed by walking the next two batters on eight pitches, thus loading the bases once again. But, Bregman lined out to Kiermaier in right-center on the next pitch, ending the ball game. Even though the inning was unnecessarily stressful, the Rays WPA never fell below 73%.
As Rays radio announcer Dave Wills noted, fatigue usually impacts command and control more than velocity … at least in the early stages. It will, however, impact velocity as time goes on. The rough outing by Anderson likely was exacerbated by fatigue. Let’s hope that a day or so of rest will help get him right.
The New What Next
Ryan Yarbrough (0-0, 3.65 ERA) will get the start Wednesday in game three of the ALCS, pitching opposite of José Urquidy (0-0, 5.19 ERA).
Ryan Yarbrough allowed two runs on six hits and one walk over five innings against the Yankees on Thursday. He struck out one. The southpaw generated just three swinging strikes on 65 pitches, yet he was able to hold New York in check aside from a two-run homer by Gleyber Torres. In all fairness, he is a pitch to contact kind of hurler. Yarbrough is 0-1 with a 2.92 ERA in two career regular-season outings against Houston (12-1/3 IP) and went 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in three ALDS appearances last season.
José Urquidy allowed four earned runs on four solo shots, an additional hit, and a walk while striking out three over 4-1/3 innings on Wednesday. Urquidy failed to make it out of the fifth inning. The 25-year-old threw 62 of his 79 pitches for strikes (83% strike rate) and recorded a first-pitch strike on 13 of the 21 batters that he faced, yet he hadn’t allowed more than one run in any other playoff appearance. Urquidy relies primarily on a 94 mph four-seam fastball with some added backspin, while also mixing in an 85 mph changeup with arm-side fade, an 80 mph slider with some two-plane movement, and a 77 mph curveball. He has never faced the Rays.
You can read about the series in our preview, and while the starting lineup is below.
Rays 10/13/20 Starting Lineup
- Meadows DH
- Arozarena LF
- B Lowe 2B
- Diaz 1B
- Wendle 3B
- Margot RF
- Kiermaier CF
- Adames SS
- Perez C