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Astros: ALCS preview, predictions, keys to the series

Oct 8, 2020; Los Angeles, California, USA; Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa (1) reacts after hitting an RBI single against the Oakland Athletics during the fifth inning during game four of the 2020 ALDS at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 8, 2020; Los Angeles, California, USA; Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa (1) reacts after hitting an RBI single against the Oakland Athletics during the fifth inning during game four of the 2020 ALDS at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /
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HOUSTON, TX – OCTOBER 10: Kevin Kiermaier #39 of the Tampa Bay Rays stands in the dugout before the game against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on October 10, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX – OCTOBER 10: Kevin Kiermaier #39 of the Tampa Bay Rays stands in the dugout before the game against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on October 10, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /

Team Comparison

Lineups

The Rays scored 289 runs this year compared to 279 for the Astros. They finished sixth in the AL in OPS, 11th in batting average, seventh in home runs, sixth in runs scored, fourth in stolen bases, fourth in on-base percentage and eighth in slugging. The Astros finished ninth in OPS, 10th in batting average, 10th in home runs, seventh in runs scored, 10th in stolen bases, 11th in on-base percentage and ninth in slugging.

Things have been different in the postseason, of course. The Astros are slashing .281/.353/.486 with 13 homers and 40 runs scored in six games. The Rays are hitting .217/.295/.434 with 14 homers and 32 runs scored in seven games. They will mix and match their lineup on a daily basis, so you’ll rarely see the same starting nine from one day to the next.

Tampa is led offensively by outfielder Randy Arozarena, who’s hitting .444 with three homers in the playoffs. Manuel Margot leads the team in RBIs in the playoffs, and players such as Joey Wendle and Mike Brosseau have chipped in as well. However, their team leader in home runs in the regular season, Brandon Lowe, is hitting .077 in the playoffs.

For the Astros, Carlos Correa is hitting .500 with four homers and 12 RBIs in the playoffs. Michael Brantley, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, George Springer and Kyle Tucker all have postseason OPS numbers of .800 or better. If things keep rolling, there’s a clear lead here. ADVANTAGE: Astros

Defense

The Rays finished eighth in the AL in errors and seventh in fielding percentage. Their outfield defense is pretty good with Kevin Kiermaier and Manuel Margot, but their infield defense is lacking. Shortstop Willy Adames had a rough season defensively, and second baseman Brandon Lowe was below average as well.

The Astros were best in the AL in errors and fielding percentage this season. Correa has played well enough to win a Gold Glove this year, and Josh Reddick, Jose Altuve and Martin Maldonado have already won them. George Springer and Alex Bregman are solid defensively as well. ADVANTAGE: Astros

Starting Rotation

The Rays have former Cy Young winner Snell and Tyler Glasnow, who struck out 91 batters in 57.1 innings this season, as their top two guys. Glasnow wouldn’t be available on regular rest until ALCS Game Four after pitching the clincher against the Yankees. Charlie Morton, Ryan Thompson and Ryan Yarbrough would round out their candidates to start. That gives them a pretty solid group from top to bottom.

The Astros best starter has been Valdez, and McCullers has the ability to shut anyone down. Zack Greinke and Jose Urquidy are capable of putting together good starts as well, and Cristian Javier has tons of upside and would likely be the fifth starter if needed. But only one starter (Valdez) has managed to complete five innings in a game this postseason. ADVANTAGE: Rays

Bullpen

The Rays have a pretty deep group of relievers, just as they did last year. Nick Anderson has been ridiculously good, while Diego Castillo, Pete Fairbanks, John Curtiss and Aaron Loup had excellent seasons, though Curtiss has struggled in the playoffs. Still, this team has no shortage of impressive arms to use in relief.

The Astros will rely heavily on Ryan Pressly, Enoli Paredes, Blake Taylor and Brooks Raley, with Javier a possibility as well. The Astros may also add Cionel Perez due to the Rays having several lefties in their lineup. Pressly and Raley were shaky in the ALDS though, and there’s simply no one beyond this group that would be reliable enough to use in key situations. If the starters don’t go deep into games, the lack of depth here becomes an issue. ADVANTAGE: Rays

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