Rays, Astros meet in ALCS rematch


After splitting a four-game series with the Oakland Athletics, the Tampa Bay Rays will flip from one American League West power to another when they begin a three-game home series Friday night against their opponent in last year’s American League Championship Series, the Houston Astros.

Rays left-hander Ryan Yarbrough (1-2, 4.28 ERA) is scheduled to throw the game’s first pitch, opposed by Astros righty Lance McCullers Jr. (1-1, 4.58) in a duel of pitchers who combined to make three starts in last year’s ALCS. The Rays won 4-3 to earn the World Series berth.

Yarbrough was the winning pitcher in Game 3, limiting the Astros to two runs on three hits in five innings in a 5-2 win.

The victory, powered by two-RBI hits from Hunter Renfroe and Joey Wendle in a five-run sixth inning, put Tampa Bay up 3-0 in the series.

It was Yarbrough’s only appearance in the seven-game set. He owns an 0-1 record and 2.92 ERA in two regular-season games, including one start, against the Astros in his career.

McCullers started both Games 2 and 7 in the series, losing each 4-2 despite giving up a total of just four earned runs and eight hits in 10 2/3 innings. He struck out 18 in the series.

He allowed home runs to Randy Arozarena and Mike Zunino in the Game 7 loss, which he left in the fourth inning, trailing 3-0.

McCullers has made three career regular-season starts against the Rays, going 1-2 with a 3.79 ERA.

In their first meeting since that October series, the teams will take the field still stinging from one-run defeats on Thursday.

The Rays are 3-4 on a low-scoring homestand, dropping two of three to Toronto while scoring just eight runs before splitting the four games with Oakland while totaling just nine runs. They had a chance to take three of four from the A’s, but watched Oakland score in the ninth on Thursday afternoon to win 3-2.

The Rays have just two hits in their last 44 plate appearances with runners in scoring position, a stat that’s updated daily, much to the dismay of manager Kevin Cash.

“Hopefully, we’re going to stop talking about this soon,” he said Thursday after his team added an 0-for-6 to the ledger. “I think we will. The offense is just having a rough go right now. We’ve been pitched well, pitched tough.

“But, saying that, we’ve got a good offense. We’re just in a little bit of a rut that we’ve got to find a way to get out. I don’t know how we’re going to do it. But trust that as a group we can.”

Meanwhile, the Astros are coming off a four-game home series against Seattle in which they recorded three wins, one by a 2-0 shutout. The lone loss came Thursday afternoon, 1-0, in a game in which Houston didn’t have a hit until the seventh inning.

If there was a positive to Thursday’s loss, it was that closer Ryan Pressly was able to get a second consecutive day off. He pitched four times on the eight-game homestand Houston just completed, earning a win and two saves.

“He takes the ball and he’s almost expressionless,” Baker said of his standout’s available-every-day attitude. “He’s in a good space. You wish everybody was like him. You don’t even know he’s in the room half the time.”

–Field Level Media

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.