Hunter Renfroe struck out four times, while Framber Valdez faced the minimum through three. Blake Snell struggled out of the gate, with 29 pitches in the first capped by a Jose Altuve homerun two hitters into the game.
José Altuve now has 16 career #Postseason HR. That is 4 behind Derek Jeter for the most by a middle infielder.— MLB Stats (@MLBStats) October 11, 2020
Other than that, it was all Tampa Bay. The 2018 AL Cy Young award winner did not have his best stuff, but he battled and made pitches where he had to. The key moment for Snell was when he put the first two hitters on and then got a linedrive double play off of the bat of Kyle Tucker.
This opened the door for the bottom of the fourth inning, where Randy Arozarena would hit his fourth homerun of this postseason. It is the third most homeruns in a single postseason for a rookie in postseason history, behind Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber (five in 2015) and the cornerstone the last time the Rays made it this far Evan Longoria (six in 2008).
John Curtiss took over for the Rays in the sixth, after Blake Snell posted his highest pitch count of the season. Snell lowered his on the postseason to 1.80. He only struck out two. Curtiss struck out half of Snell’s total in one inning of work, before Ryan Thompson took over. Thompson had a strikeout over a scoreless frame. In the next inning, Aaron Loup hit Michael Brantley, got an out and gave up another baserununer before closer Diego Castillo went in for a five out save. He got a clutch double play on the first pitch to first basemen Yulieski Gurriel.
The biggest hit for the Tampa Bay offense tonight other than Arozarena came from an unlikely source: Mike Zunino, who has had a number of clutch hits out of the nine hole this postseason. For what it’s worth, he had 10 RBI this season spread out over 11 hits, so a majority of his hits normally do damage with runners aboard.
It felt the entire game that Valdez had the better outing. He struck out eight over six and only gave up a total of four hits (Snell gave up six in one less inning of work), but Tampa’s timely hitting gave them the 2-1 lead. For Houston, Blake Taylor gave up a hit in a third of an inning before Enoldi Parades worked out of the jam. Brooks Raley struggled in the bottom of the eighth but got out of it.
Aledmys Diaz lined out to Margot to start the top of the ninth. Martin Maldanado, the Astros catcher, was lifted for Josh Reddick who got a basehit up the middle. He was lifted for pinch runner Myles Straw to bring up the top of the order. Straw moved into scoring position when George Springer grounded to first baseman Michael Brosseau. This brought up former AL MVP and the man who took Snell yard earlier, Jose Altuve, to the plate with the tying run in scoring position. Altuve was 0-6 lifetime heading into the at bat against Castillo. On a 1-2 slider, Altuve expanded the zone and struck out to end the ballgame.
With that five out save, Castillo has thrown 5.2 scoreless innings in the playoffs. He threw 21.2 innings of work to a 1.66 ERA in the regular season. Houston left ten on base. Game Two will be tomorrow at 4 EST on TBS, and will feature former Astro Charlie Morton going up against Lance McCullers Jr.
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