In a must-win match against the Houston Astros, the Tampa Bay Rays did what they needed to do with a 10-3 victory in ALDS game three, and a Charlie Morton gem to prove they’re still in it to win it.
This was a game that the Tampa Bay Rays had to win, and not in a hyperbolic way. With the Houston Astros up 2-0 in the series, the Rays were on the brink of being done for good. And the Astros weren’t done bringing out stellar pitching, with Zack Greinke taking the mound for game three.
The Rays had Charlie Morton in their corner, though. Morton, who was the last pitcher on the mound in Game Seven when the Astros won it all in 2017, was now facing off against his old club in another do-or-die match. In the first inning he didn’t appear to be himself, giving up a solo home run to Jose Altuve, and generally not looking quite like the ace they needed.
But ultimately it was Morton, with a strong five innings, giving up a mere one run on three hits and striking out nine, who outlasted Greinke. Greinke managed 3.2 innings but was shelled with six runs on five hits and a walk.
Let’s talk about those runs, shall we, because for two innings it felt almost like a foregone conclusion that Rays fans were going to have their hearts broken. But then Avisail Garcia got on base. And Travis d’Arnaud got on base. And Kevin Kiermaier came to the plate and absolutely smashed a 407 foot home run that scored all three and gave the Rays a 3-1 lead that they would not surrender for the remainder of the game.
In the third inning, Ji-Man Choi homered, putting an end to his relatively quiet run in the postseason. Then Brandon Lowe homered in the fourth inning, and the Rays were not going to go quietly after that. Austin Meadows doubled to score Matt Duffy and Willy Adames, and right after that Tommy Pham singled to score Meadows.
Yuli Gurriel bit back for the Astros in the sixth inning off of an uncharacteristically shaky Chaz Roe, scoring Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez. Roe was replaced by Brendan McKay, who completed the inning without further issue.
The Rays were not done scoring yet, though, knowing there’s no such thing a safe lead in postseason baseball. In the sixth, Willy Adames scored another solo home run, and then in the seventh Travis d’Arnaud scored Garcia on a sac fly, bringing the score to 10-3.
Oliver Drake managed two scoreless innings of his own, and Colin Poche closed things out for the Rays with a final scoreless ninth. The team will breathe a sigh of relief knowing that Diego Castillo, Emilio Pagan, and Nick Anderson did not need to be used today, as they’ll be going for a bullpen day in tomorrow’s game four.
One unfortunate point is that Wild Card hero Yandy Diaz was scrapped mid-game and replaced by Matt Duffy as Diaz seemed to be experiencing foot pain.
The start time for Tuesday’s game four will depend entirely on whether or not the Twins win against the Yankees on Monday evening. If the Yankees sweep Minnesota, the Rays and Astros will be moved to a 7:07ET start. But if the Twins force a game four, the Rays and Astros will play at 4:15ET.