The ALCS kicked off with the No.1 seeded Tampa Bay Rays taking a 1-0 series lead against the No. 8 Houston Astros with a 2-1 victory.
Tampa Bay has lived up to their No.1 seed so far this postseason, sweeping the Toronto Blue Jays in the WCS before defeating their division rivals, the New York Yankees, in a hard fought matchup that went to game five.
While Houston came into the playoffs as the eighth seed and with a regular season record under .500, they sure haven’t played like it. They made quick work of the Twins before taking on a division rival of their own, the Oakland A’s, in a series that really showed off their offense production. The Astros put up 33 total runs in their 3-1 series win over the A’s.
The Houston offense looked like it picked up right where it left off, as 2B José Altuve hit a solo shot home run in the first inning to take the early 1-0 lead. LF Michael Brantley followed with a single, but Rays SP Blake Snell settled down to get out of the inning.
Over the next few innings, Snell would bend but not break to contain the Astros offense and keep Tampa Bay in the game.
His hard work payed off in the fourth when Rays DH Randy Arozarena hit a home run of his own off Houston SP Framber Valdez to tie the game, 1-1.
The very next inning, the Rays got back to work and grabbed another run off Valdez when C Mike Zunino drove in SS Willy Adames with a single to left.
The rest of the game slowed down with the Rays up 2-1 and both starters out of the game, as the bullpens effectively shut out each other’s offense.
The combined effort of RHP John Curtiss, RHP Ryan Thompson and LHP Aaron Loup allowed two hits and no runs to set up RHP Diego Castillo to secure a five-out save, as the Rays took the series opener, 2-1.
Snel (W): 5 IP, 2K, 6H, 1 R, 1ER
Arozarena: 1-4, HR, 1 RBI, 1R
Castillo (S): 1.2IP, 1K, 1H
Altuve: 2-5, HR, 1R, 1RBI
What to expect:
SP Charlie Morton will take the mound for the Rays in game two, facing off against Houston’s Lance McCullers Jr. But while the Rays pitching neutralized the Astros offense, you’d be hard pressed to believe that they can do it over the course of a seven-game series.
Even without the trash cans, the Astros proved that their offense can be legitimate and put up runs in a hurry. Seeing as how this is the first time this postseason the Astros were held to one run, I would expect the offense to explode sooner rather than later and get their first win in the series.
Hey, my name is Max Perez, I am a contributing writer for The Bullpen and a senior at California State University, Long Beach. Since beginning my education I have been dedicated to sports journalism, working for two different student publication and covering as many sports as possible, and hope to continue that journey here.