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How the Rays have taken the Astros to five games

HOUSTON – Raise your hand if you predicted that we would be talking about the Astros and Rays ALDS going the distance?

Anyone? Didn't think so.

The Astros have been the Goliath of MLB all season racking up a league best 107 wins and riding a potent offensive lineup and the most lethal number one and number two starting pitchers in the game.

1 . Astros bats have gone relatively quiet.

The offense that put up huge numbers all season long has quickly taken a nose-dive in the past two games  scoring only 4 runs to go with a mere 13 hits.  This comes after they rocked the Rays in the first two ALDS games at Minute Maid Park when they scored 9 runs and had a combined 19 hits. 

2.  Rays have played clean and made the big play when needed

In Game four it was all about one Astros potential momentum killing play in the Top of the 4th inning.  Yordan Alvarez smoked a double off the centerfield wall and Jose Altuve tried to score from first base only to be thrown out by an inch. The Rays execution was spectacular on the relay connection from Kevin Kiermaier, Willy Adames and Rays Catcher Travis d'Arnaud who made the tag on Altuve.

3. Astros can't figure out Rays pitching rotation.

The Rays are even in this series because of clutch hitting, protecting home field where they have won 16 of their last 18 and their deep pitching department.   Simply put from the starters to the Rays "Openers" they are nasty.  George Springer and Carlos Correa hit on that in the clubhouse after the game Tuesday night..  They will likely see Travis Glasnow in Game 5 and the Rays will be ready to roll out as many pitchers as needed including Blake Snell who made his first career relief appearance Tuesday night.

4. Back to Cole and that's a good thing

Thursday night it is coming down to a Win or Go home night for both teams and most like the Astros to punch their ticket to the ALCS and a date with the Yankees.

The Verlander-Cole combo combined for 41 regular season wins and 626 strikeouts.   They are respected but not feared , certainly not by the pesky Tampa Bay Rays who have clawed their way back from an 0-2 hole to even the series.  Cole was lights out all season and Saturday in Game 2 when he struck out 15 Rays hitters which is third most in postseason history.  Cole also has a streak of 10 consecutive starts with ten or more strikeouts.  In short his fastball, curve and slider have been nasty.

Can he make it eleven?   He'll be locked in and so will the Astros in front of their home crowd.