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Tampa Bay Rays vs. Houston Astros

Tampa Bay Rays (96-66) at Houston Astros (107-55)

MLB: Thursday, October 10th, 2019 at 7:07 pm ET (Minute Maid Park)

Line and Odds: Houston Astros -280/Tampa Bay Rays +247 Over/Under: 7

Free ESPN MLB Picks Houston Astros vs. Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay

The team with the lowest payroll in baseball has managed to take it to a decisive Game 5 of the American League Divisional Series against the World Series favorites. It looked like the Astros would get a routine sweep after dominating the Tampa Bay Rays in Games 1 and 2 in Houston. However, the Rays were able to find a formula in Tampa that secured back-to-back wins in Game 3 and Game 4. In Game 3, they were able to batter Zack Greinke who failed to last 4 full innings. The Rays scored 8 runs from the 2nd inning through the 4th inning to take an 8-1 lead en route to a 10-3 win.

Former Astro Charlie Morton threw 9 strikeouts for the Rays in 5 innings, giving up just 1 earned run. In Game 4, they took down another one of Houston’s aces, Justin Verlander. Tommy Pham got a home run off Verlander in the 1st and Willy Adames got a homer in the 4th to knock him out of the game. Verlander was strong in innings 2 and 3, but the 3 runs he gave up in the 1st inning prove too much for Houston to overcome. The Rays were able to “bullpen” their way to a victory in Game 4. Diego Castillo got the start, Ryan Yarbrough got the win, and Blake Snell got the save. It was a team effort that saw the Rays give up just 6 hits and 2 walks while striking out 8 and allowing 1 run.

The Tampa Bay Rays will send out Tyler Glasnow as the starting pitcher for today’s game. Manager Kevin Cash is expected to let Glasnow go fairly deep into the game (pending performance), as opposed to Game 4’s opener, Diego Castillo, who went 1 and 2/3 innings. Glasnow pitched in Game 1 of this series, but he did not have as strong of an outing as he would’ve liked. He went 4 and 1/3 innings and allowed 2 earned runs. He struck out 5 batters, walked 3, and gave up 4 hits. It wasn’t a terrible start for him, but he was completely overshadowed by a dominant Verlander on the the other side. The 26-year-old left-hander has been strong in his limited action this season. He has gone 6-1 with a 1.78 ERA in 12 regular season starts. He has a WHIP of 0.890 and a FIP of 2.26. Glasnow allows 5.9 hits, 0.6 home runs, and 1.93 runs per 9 innings. Even though Glasnow will get the start, we know that Cash has no problem going to his bullpen and using it effectively (see: Game 4).

Houston

The Houston Astros entered the MLB postseason as the favorites to win the World Series. Today, they are staring down the prospect of blowing a 2-0 lead in the American League Divisional Series. In a matchup between the elite Rays pitching and the powerful Astros hitting, the Rays pitchers have had the advantage through 4 games. Houston has scored just 13 runs in the series’ first four games, getting outscored 17-13. Tampa Bay has had success mixing up their pitching rotations and creating tough pitcher-batter matchups with their bullpen. Houston is hopeful that this Game 5 will more closely resemble the first 2 games of the series than the last 2. In Games 1 and 2, Houston was able to set the tone with dominant performances from Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. Verlander pitched for 7 innings in Game 1, allowing 0 runs, 1 hit, and 3 walks while striking out 8 batters. Cole pitched for 7 and 2/3 innings in Game 2, allowing 0 runs, 4 hits, and 1 walk, striking out 15 batters. However, poor starts from Zack Greinke and a Verlander on short rest have allowed the Rays to get their confidence back.

In order to win this game, we will need to see the Astros from the regular season reappear. They had the best record in Major League Baseball at 107-55. They had a run differential of +280 which was the best in the MLB. Houston had the best home record in baseball, going 60-22 in Minute Maid Park. The Astros averaged 5.68 runs per game, ranking 3rd in scoring. They led the entire MLB in batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, and OPS+. They were also 1st in offensive strikeout percentage and offensive walk percentage. Houston batters ranked 3rd in home run percentage, and 2nd in extra base hit percentage. If they can recapture their offensive groove from the regular season, Tampa Bay will have a hard time beating them today.

Cy Young contender Gerrit Cole gets the call as today’s starting pitcher for the Houston Astros. He hasn’t personally taken a loss on his record in his last 23 starts, and was lights out the last time we saw him on the mound. Cole led the entire league in strikeout percentage this season, striking batters out on 39.9% of his opponents’ plate appearances. 2nd-best was his teammate Justin Verlander, who had a strikeout rate of 35.4%. Cole finished 2nd in OPS against, allowing batters an OPS of just .579 off of him. He led the American League in ERA (2.50) and Fielding Independent Pitching (2.64), among qualified pitchers. He led the entire MLB in strikeouts (326), ERA+ (184) and strikeouts per 9 innings (13.8). Cole went 20-5 in 33 starts and 212 innings pitched. He gives up 6.0 hits, 1.2 home runs, and 2.80 runs per 9 innings.

Cover The Spread 365 Betting Trends

Rays

The total has gone UNDER in 7 of Tampa Bay’s last 10 games.

Tampa Bay is 10-5 SU in their last 15 games.

Tampa Bay is 1-4 SU in their last 5 games on the road.

Astros

The total has gone OVER in 4 of Houston’s last 6 games.

Houston is 14-4 SU in their last 18 games.

The total has gone OVER in 5 of Houston’s last 7 games against Tampa Bay.

ESPN MLB Scores Tampa Bay Rays vs. Houston Astros

I’m taking the Under 7 (-115) in this matchup. Both pitching staffs seem to have the advantage in this Game 5. Houston’s batters have been strong this regular season, but the Rays have frustrated them all series. As powerful as the Astros lineup is, Rays manager Kevin Cash has been able to pull all the right strings to prevent them from getting hot. Whether they leave their starting pitchers in for 2 innings, 4 innings, or 6 innings, the bullpen has been able to get the outs they’ve needed. These are arguably the two best bullpens in baseball. Tampa Bay ranks 1st with a bullpen ERA of 3.71, while the Astros rank 2nd at 3.75. Houston’s relievers rank 1st with a 4.06 xFIP, while Tampa Bay’s pen ranks 3rd with an xFIP of 4.13. The big difference is that Houston isn’t as reliant on the bullpen because of their starting pitching. Gerrit Cole has been one of the best pitchers in all of baseball this season. We saw how amazing he was against the Rays in Game 2, and I expect more of the same. Also, the Rays offense has been just average this season. Tampa Bay’s batters rank near the middle of the pack in most offensive statistics. I’d expect Houston to win a low scoring battle, so I like the under here.

Under 7 (-115)
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