The Tampa Bay Rays are back in the ALCS for only the second time in their history and the first time since 2008.
The Rays will look to settle the score against a Houston Astros team that beat the Rays three-games to two in last years ALDS.
Although the Rays have played under the radar this season, despite having the second-best record in baseball at 40-20, there will be millions of baseball fans rooting for the Rays as they want to see the Astros beaten as a result of their cheating in 2017 when they won the World Series.
The Astros finished the 60 game season with a 29-31 record. If the playoffs and not been expanded to 16 teams this season, the Astros would not have made the post-season.
The Astros have gotten to the ALCS by beating the Minnesota Twins two game to nothing in the wild card round. The Astros then beat the Oakland A’s three games to one to earn the right to take on the Rays.
The Rays took care of business against the Toronto Blue Jays sweeping the Blue Jays out of the playoffs two games to nothing. The Rays then beat the New York Yankees three games to two to advance to the ALCS.
This a much deeper and overall better Rays team in 2020 than the one that was eliminated by the Astros in 2019.
The pitching from starter to reliever is much better. The Rays are seasoned playoff veterans as they have now played in 13 playoff games over the last two seasons.
The Rays have a more flexible roster as they can plug more players into different positions for defensive purposes.
The Rays are just the more talented team overall.
The Rays will go with 14 pitchers on the playoff roster.
The Rays have added Josh Fleming and Jose Alvarado to the ALCS roster.
Fleming was left off the roster for the Yankee series despite going 5-0 with a 3.78 ERA during the regular season.
Alvarado was on the DL the majority of the season and has not pitched in a game since August 14th. When completely healthy, Alvarado is one of the hardest throwing relievers in the game.
The Rays took Oliver Drake off the playoff pool roster as he suffered an injury in the Yankee series. The Rays also left outfielder Brett Phillips off the roster.
The Astros are the best hitting team in the playoffs as they bring a .291 batting average into the series.
The Astros offense was in a funk all season, but have got it going in the post-season. Carlos Correa is hitting .500. Michael Brantley is hitting .368. Jose Altuve is hitting .400. All three have led the way offensively for the Astros this post-season.
The Astros pitching is not nearly as strong as last season when they lost to Washington in the World Series. Gerrit Cole signed with the Yankees, and Justin Verlander is out for the season as he recuperates from Tommy John surgery.
Zack Greinke has had some arm soreness during the playoffs and has a 7.71 ERA in two starts.
The Rays have been carried by their Cuban prospect Randy Arozarena. Arozareana has hit .444 in the playoffs with three homers and has driven in four runs.
Brandon Lowe who led the Rays in every offensive category during the regular season has had his bat silenced so far in the playoffs. Lowe is hitting .077 in the playoffs and the Rays will need him to get going at some point during the playoffs.
This will be another entertaining series. The Rays pitching against the Astros high powered offense.
The Rays kept the Yankee bats in check and will look to keep the Astro Hitters silenced as well.
The Rays have a much better bullpen and this is where the series could be won or lost.
Kevin Cash has been a master at using his bullpen so far in the postseason. The Rays relief pitchers can all get the ball in the mid to upper 90 MPHrange and that will make it tough on opposing hitters.
Blake Snell will start game one for the Rays, Charlie Morton will start for the Rays in the second game of the series.
The Rays are the better team. They have better pitching and that is what wins you games as you go deeper in the post-season.
I like the Rays to win in six games against the Astros and advance to their second World Series in franchise history.