Two games in a row now, the difference in the Tampa Bay Rays beating the Houston Astros in the ALCS has come down to one play.
The Rays, as anybody who has watched them this season know, make plays. The Astros, in what sealed their fate in Game 2 on Monday, did not.
One play — one throw in fact — was what spelled defeat for the Astros this time. Jose Altuve shorted a throw to first base in the first inning. Yuli Gurriel couldn’t dig it out. An easy third out turned into another chance for the Rays with two runners on base.
And the Rays did what the Rays do — exploit mistakes. Manuel Margot, the next hitter, came up and blasted a three-run homer to center field. That was all the offense the Rays would need. They got another run on an eighth-inning Mike Zunino homer and won the game 4-2.
— MLB (@MLB) October 12, 2020
It’s got to be frustrating for the Astros, who for the second game in a row had more hits than the Rays (nine to four, this time around), but left too many players stranded on base (eight in Game 2; 18 for the series). Carlos Correa went deep again, a solo homer in the sixth, but it only made a small dent.
The Astros made things more interesting in the ninth inning, loading the bases twice against Rays closer Nick Anderson. They got one more run across in the ninth inning, but the Rays pulled off another important double play and Alex Bregman flew out for the final out.
Houston also wasted a nice outing from Lance McCullers Jr., who despite the two home runs pitched well. McCullers allowed just four hits and struck out 11.
That’s the kind of game you have to win in October and maybe the Astros would have if not the first-inning error that haunted them for the rest of the game.
For comparison, the Rays continued to show how they execute — particularly on defense. They were making plays like this in Game 2.
That was the Rays we saw in Game 1 also. They were clinging to a 2-1 lead most of the game, and during a tense eighth inning, got a key double play to end the inning and escape with a win.
This is what the Rays do and how they win. They don’t have big-name stars like the rest of the teams left in the postseason, but they execute as good as anyone. And, as it seems, the ball is just bouncing their way right now.
Margot’s big day wasn’t just at the plate. He was also responsible for the best defensive play of the day. In the second inning, he flew off the field to catch this George Springer fly ball. The Astros had runners on second and third, so making this catch ended the innings and stopped the Houston threat.
Two big moments for Margot, both of which contributed in a big way to the Rays’ Game 2 win.
This series heads into Game 3 on Tuesday with the Astros trying to find themselves in a 3-0 hole. The Astros will start Jose Urquidy. The righty has a 5.19 ERA in two starts this postseason, which isn’t nearly as good as his 2.73 regular-season ERA.
The Rays haven’t announced a starter yet, but have Tyler Glasnow locked in for Game 4, which means that Game 3 could just be an opener game for Kevin Cash’s bunch. It could be like Game 4 of the ALDS where they started Ryan Thompson for 1 ⅔ innings and followed with five innings of Ryan Yarbrough. The Rays are just as comfortable winning that way too.
First pitch of Game 3 is scheduled for 8:40 p.m. ET Tuesday with TV coverage on TBS.
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