Nobody thought we’d be in this position. The Rays won the first three games of the series and now the Astros won the last three games of the series. We’re going to a game seven to see who makes the World Series and who goes home. It doesn’t get any better than this.
Houston Astros vs. Tampa Bay Rays
ALCS Game 7
Saturday, October 17, 2020 – 08:37 PM EDT – Petco Park
- Astros: Lance McCullers (3-3 3.93 ERA; Postseason: 0-1 4.09 ERA)
- Rays: Charlie Morton (2-2 4.74 ERA, Postseason: 1-0 0.90 ERA)
Lance McCullers was sensational in his game two start against the Rays but ended up taking a loss after going seven innings and allowing four runs (one earned) on four hits and no walks. McCullers struck out 11 and induced 10 ground balls to six fly balls. However, he made one mistake to Manuel Margot, where Margot ripped a three run homer early in the game.
The Astros couldn’t recover even though McCullers was dominant throughout the game. Before that start, McCullers faced the A’s earlier in the postseason and allowed eight hits and five runs (four earned) in four innings. He struck out five and walked one but allowed three home runs.
In 11 innings, he’s allowed five home runs and 12 hits but has also struck out 16 and walked one. There’s a lot to like about the right-hander.
McCullers has a solid strikeout rate and sometimes allows the walks to get the best of him. But so far, during the postseason, that hasn’t been the case. He got almost 60 percent ground balls this season and had an FIP of 3.7, which is respectable. His batting average of balls in play was just .277 but he did struggle to hold runners on base, holding 64.5 percent of runners, which is below the typical average of about 70.
McCullers had an ERA of 7.33 on the season and a 1.42 ERA at home. 3-0 at home and 0-3 on the road. It’s a big difference. But the reality is, none of these stats matter because in the playoffs, nothing goes as planned. McCullers striking out 16 and walking one wasn’t anyone’s prediction for him coming into the regular season. Also, McCullers barely allowed home runs this season and has now allowed five in his first two starts.
On the flip side, Charlie Morton will get the call for Game 7. Morton was an Astro not too long ago and now will face his former team and look to kill their dreams this season.
Morton has gone 10 innings in the postseason and faced the Astros in the second game of the ALCS against McCullers. In those five innings, Morton allowed no runs on five hits, struck out five, and walked one.
You’ll usually never see a Rays pitcher go deeper than six innings in any start this season. Morton hasn’t finished six innings in any start this season. However, Morton has struggled against righties this season with righties finishing the season hitting .304 with 28 hits in 92 at bats with eight extra base hits.
Morton was very good at limiting home runs as he allowed just four on the season and just one to righties. On the season, Morton struggled the second time around the order, which is why he’s never been able to finish six innings in a start this season.
How many Game 7’s are there where we see one team blow out another? Not so many. This game will be tight and closely contested. However, if one pitcher tried being too perfect with their pitches, batters might walk and create havoc on the base path.
If anyone were to have a problem in that scenario, it would likely be McCullers as Morton is the veteran who’s been there before. McCullers hasn’t been in this spot before and has had trouble throwing strikes in the past.
McCullers has been a boom or bust pitcher throughout his career. Even when he “boomed” he was a bust for the Astros and allowed four runs in seven innings while taking the loss.
There’s going to be so much pressure on these pitchers but there’s even more pressure on the batters. Batters get too eager or sometimes watch the first pitch due to nerves. If Morton and McCullers are able to get ahead in counts, they should be able to keep the score low throughout the first half of the game.