ASTROS (0-0) AT RAYS (0-0)
7:37 p.m. ET; TBS
The Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Rays meet in a postseason rematch, this time with a World Series berth at stake in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series that kicks off late Sunday afternoon with Game 1 in San Diego.
A pair of left-handers — the Astros’ Framber Valdez and Rays’ Blake Snell — are the announced starters for the playback of last year’s AL Division Series, won 3-2 by the Astros.
Houston will be making its fourth straight appearance in the ALCS, the first team to do so since the New York Yankees from 1998-2001. The sixth-seeded Astros have lost just once in dismissing the third-seeded Minnesota Twins and second-seeded Oakland Athletics in the first two rounds this season.
Power hitting drove the 2017 world champs into the matchup with the top-seeded Rays, with Carlos Correa belting three homers and teammates Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley and George Springer two apiece in a 12-bomb assault on Oakland pitching over four games.
“I’m impressed, but I’m not overly impressed,” Astros manager Dusty Baker summed up of the Houston offense on Saturday. “This is what we’ve been waiting for, for a while. The ball was carrying a lot there in (Los Angeles). Hopefully we can do the same here (in San Diego).”
Houston also used the long ball to eliminate Tampa Bay last season in a series in which all five games were won by the home team.
This year’s ALCS is being played at a neutral site at Petco Park, where the Rays on Friday eliminated the New York Yankees on a dramatic eighth-inning home run by Mike Brosseau in Game 5.
The Astros’ series win over Oakland took place up the California road at Dodger Stadium.
The teams did not meet in the regionally based 2020 regular season.
Alex Bregman and Altuve swung the big bats in last year’s win over Tampa Bay, with Bregman going 6-for-17 with two doubles, a home run and three RBIs, while Altuve went 7-for-20 with two doubles, three homers and five RBIs.
The Astros saw Snell three times in last year’s ALDS, beating him 3-1 in Game 2 behind a homer by Bregman and the pitching of Gerrit Cole. Snell’s other two appearances were in relief, including getting two outs and a save in Game 4.
Snell also started once against Houston last year in the regular season, allowing homers to Altuve, Brantley and Springer on a 5-1 loss on Opening Day. He was opposed that time by Justin Verlander.
The Astros lost Cole in free agency last offseason and won’t have Verlander in this series following Tommy John surgery.
Overall for his career, Snell has made six starts against the Astros in the regular season, going 2-2 with a 4.73 ERA.
Snell (1-1) has opened both previous series for the Rays, beating Toronto 3-1 in Tampa Bay’s 2-0 sweep before losing 9-3 to the Yankees in what turned out to be a five-game series.
Valdez (2-0), meanwhile, had a Game 1 win in the Minnesota series and a Game 2 victory in the Oakland series, allowing just two runs and seven hits in 12 innings.
The 26-year-old has never faced the Rays, who will be making their first ALCS appearance since beating Boston 4-3 en route to the 2008 World Series.
“Looking forward to it,” Brosseau said of the rematch with the Astros. “They’ve been the team to beat the last few years. They knocked us out last year, so it’ll be fun facing them again.”
–Field Level Media