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3 things to know about the Tampa Bay Rays, the Astros' ALCS opponent

HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 04:  Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros turns a double play past a sliding Austin Meadows #17 of the Tampa Bay Rays during the sixth inning in game one of the American League Division Series at Minute Maid Park on October 04, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 04: Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros turns a double play past a sliding Austin Meadows #17 of the Tampa Bay Rays during the sixth inning in game one of the American League Division Series at Minute Maid Park on October 04, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) (2019 Getty Images)

HOUSTON – The Houston Astros will face the Tampa Bay Rays in the playoffs for the second year in a row, but this time in reversed roles. The Astros are the underdog after a 29-31 season.

Houston knocked off two division winners to make it to the ALCS and would need to beat a third to make the World Series.

Here are three things to know about Houston’s opponent:

Dominate pitching

The Rays are well known for their creativity while pitching, pioneering the idea of an opener.

The Rays have seven different pitchers, who have both started and finished a game this season. The Astros, a far more traditional team, have three.

Tampa Bay had 23 saves out of the team’s 40 wins this season, with 12 different pitchers recording a save. They spread the wealth and are quick to pull starters if needed.

No big names of offense

Despite the headline, the Rays hit better than the Astros in the regular season (109 OPS+ to 96 OPS+).

Houston, despite all of the team’s talent, was below average hitting team before the playoffs.

The Rays struggled to hit overall against the Yankees. But when they hit, they won. Two of the three wins in the ALDS for Tampa Bay included games of seven and eight runs.

Houston was a juggernaut vs. Oakland in the ALDS, averaging 8.3 runs per game.

The Rays had a 2019 All-Star in Austin Meadows, but Meadows hit just .205 in 2020 with an 86 OPS+.

The name to know for the Rays is Randy Arozarena, who was a monster vs. the Yankees and Blue Jays. Arozarena is 12 for 27 (.444) in the playoffs so far.

Astros GM James Click to endure ‘weird’ series

In 2019, Astros general manager James Click served as the vice president of baseball for the Rays. He helped put together a team that almost took down a 107-win Houston Astros team in the ALDS.

The next year, Click took over for the Astros.

“On a scale of 0 to weird, (it’s) pretty weird,” Click said, as he planned on beating his former team.

Click has a far cushier gig with the Astros, who are willing to spend money on big contracts whereas the Rays small-market tendencies mean they have to either hit on draft picks or come up with game-changing ways to win.

Under Click, the Rays did both, building their offense and pitching staff through smart drafting and trading.

The main trade was with the Pirates in 2018, bringing in prospect outfielder Austin Meadows and prospect pitcher Tyler Glasnow for Rays ace Chris Archer.

Since then, Meadows has made the All-Star team and Glasnow has pitched to a 3.32 ERA in 34 regular-season starts for the Rays.