The Tampa Bay Rays faced the disreputable Houston Astros, as they tried to extend their series lead to 2-0. The Los Angeles Dodgers faced the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS series opener, as the red-hot Dodgers are on their quest to bring a long-awaited World Series title to Los Angeles. It was a day filled with great baseball.
ALCS Game 2:
The second ALCS matcup between the Rays and Astros took place on a very hot Monday in sunny San Diego at Petco Park. Key defensive plays and timely hitting propelled the Rays to a 4-2 win over Houston, extending their series lead 2-0.
Rays veteran SP Charlie Morton took the mound against his former team that infamously won the 2017 World Series. The 36-year-old Morton got into trouble early in the first inning but worked out of it by striking out two Astros hitters.
The Rays got active early in this one, with one runner on and two outs in the first, 1B Ji-Man Choi hit a routine groundball to 2B José Altuve, who made a costly error by underthrowing the ball to first base to extend the inning for the Rays. The next batter, RF Manuel Margot, crushed a curveball from SP Lance McCullers to centerfield to give the Rays a 3-0 lead in the first.
With dominant pitching performances from the Rays’ pitching staff and stellar defense from Margot, the Rays’ didn’t need any more offense to put the Astros away. However, the Astros showed fight via a solo shot from SS Carlos Correa in the sixth inning to cut the lead to just two runs. Correa has been very determined to show that he can hit regardless if he knows what pitch is coming or not this postseason.
In the next inning, C Mike Zunino answered back with a home run to give the Rays a more comfortable 4-1 lead. Going into the ninth inning, Rays RHP Nick Anderson put the Astros away. He had trouble doing so, however, as the Astros strung together at-bats and ended up loading the bases with no outs. Anderson worked out of it, giving up only one run thanks to a double-play hit by OF George Springer. The Rays and Anderson sucesfully shut the door, winning 4-2 and taking a dominating 2-0 series lead.
Morton: 5 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 0 ER, W
Margot: 1-3, HR, 3 RBI, R
Correa: 1-4, HR, RBI, R
McCullers Jr.: 7 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 11 K, L
What To Expect:
In Game 3, we should expect to see an aggressive Astros offense. The Astros have been hitting the ball well in the playoffs but oftentimes right at defenders.
Houston left a shocking 20 runners on base in Game 2. While this is frustrating for them, I think it shows they have the capability to put up a good amount of runs. The Rays have been great at holding their opponents to two or fewer runs this postseason, so it should be interesting to see who prevails.
For an Astros team that has one of the biggest chips on their shoulders and feels like it’s them against the world, I can’t see them letting the Rays go up 3-0 in the series Tuesday night.
Game 1 NLCS:
The first game of the NLCS featured two undefeated postseason teams and one streak had to end, as the Dodgers fell to the Braves 5-1.
The Dodgers were coming off a game where they scored 12 runs, so it was hard to believe they would find as much success against Atlanta’s excellent pitching staff.
The Braves jumped out to an early lead in the first inning when SP Walker Buehler gave up a no-doubt home run to 1B Freddie Freeman. Buehler settled down, however, and stopped the bleeding by throwing four scoreless innings after the first.
In the fifth, one of the Dodger’s many offensive weapons in 2B Kike Hernández answered back with a no-doubter of his own to tie the game, 1-1. Braves SP Max Fried had a brilliant start as well, holding the Dodgers to just one run through six innings pitched.
Manager Dave Roberts made some questionable pitching decisions throughout the game after SP Walker Buehler exited. The question of who the Dodger’s ninth inning guy will be in big games like this is one yet to be answered. Dave Roberts decided on RHP Blake Treinen, who gave up a solo home run to INF Austin Riley in the top of the ninth inning. This would break the tie of the low scoring affair to put Atlanta up 2-1. Then, came an onslaught of ninth-inning offense from the Braves, including a two-run home run from 2B Ozzie Albies that extended their lead 5-2. The home team Dodgers went down in order to RHP Mark Melancon, as the Braves won Game 1, 5-1.
Fried: 6 IP, 9 K, 4 H, ER
Freeman: 1-4, HR, RBI
Albies: 2-5, HR, 2 RBI
Hernández: 1-3, HR, RBI
What To Expect:
I wouldn’t be surprised to see another pitching duel between Dodgers SP Clayton Kershaw and Braves SP Ian Anderson in Game 2.
The Dodgers offense will be looking to be much more active than in Game 1, however, the Braves won’t seem to budge. It will also be interesting to see the strategy of the bullpen, who the Dodgers will utilize to try and keep the Braves from going up 2-0 in the series.
Kershaw is very familiar with big games in the postseason and I’m excited to see how he’ll react. I have the Dodgers taking Game 2 behind the offense of RF Mookie Betts and 3B Justin Turner.
I'm Jordan Durrell and I'm a contributor to The Bullpen. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA and I'm a lifelong Dodger fan. I've been watching and playing baseball my whole life and currently play at West LA College. I've always had a passion for writing and sports.