The Tampa Bay Rays are not going away quietly. Monday afternoon at Tropicana Field, the Rays beat up on Zack Greinke to win Game 3 of their ALDS matchup with the Houston Astros (TB 10, HOU 3). The Astros still hold a 2-1 series lead.
Here are seven things to know about Game 3 now that we know for certain there will be a Game 4 on Tuesday.
1. The Rays jumped all over Greinke
To quote manager Kevin Cash,, . The Rays never once held a lead in Games 1 or 2. They trailed in nine of the 18 innings played in first two games of the series and the game was scoreless in the other nine innings.
Kevin Kiermaier, the longest-tenured Ray, gave his club its first lead of the ALDS in the bottom of the second inning. An Avisail Garcia single and a Travis d'Arnaud hit-by-pitch put two on with two outs, then Greinke left a changeup up and out over the plate. Kiermaier hit it out to right-center field for a three-run homer and a 3-1 lead.
Greinke was on 11 days rest going into Monday's game, and sometimes command pitchers can lose their rhythm and feel during a long layoff, and struggle to locate. That appeared to be the case in Game 3. He was in the middle of the plate more than I'm sure he would've liked. Kiermaier had been in a 10-for-78 (.128) slump dating back to the regular season before the homer.
Ji-Man Choi and Brandon Lowe added insurance solo homers in the third and fourth innings, respectively, to stretch the lead to 5-1. With the Astros, Greinke has allowed five home runs in two starts against the Rays (one regular season and ALDS Game 3) and four homers in his other nine starts combined.
Greinke now owns a career 4.46 ERA in 12 starts and 70 2/3 innings in the postseason. Monday was the only the second time he allowed three homers in a postseason game -- he allowed three homers in his first ever postseason start, with the Brewers back in 2011. Paul Goldschmidt, Chris Young, and Justin Upton took him deep that game.
The Astros had been a perfect 12-0 in their last 12 games started by Verlander, Cole, and Greinke heading into Game 3. The Rays are the first team to beat one of Houston's big three since the Athletics beat Verlander on Sept. 12.
2. Morton bent but did not break
. He was not sharp against the Astros in ALDS Game 3 on Monday either. He surrendered a first inning home run (more on that in a bit) and the Astros elevated his pitch count early. Morton's pitch count by inning: 31, 21, 18, 12, 11. Better every inning, but it was high early on.
It was not until Morton's fifth and final inning that he had a 1-2-3 frame. Six of the first 15 batters he faced reached base, but, with men on base, the Astros went hitless in 10 at-bats against Morton (they did have a runner reach on an error with a man on base). Houston had no trouble starting rallies Monday, but they were unable to finish them.
Interestingly enough, Chaz Roe started to warm up during the bottom of the fourth inning, as the Rays broke the game open against the Astros bullpen. It appeared Cash was planning to pull Morton at 82 pitches with the big 8-1 lead and save bullets for a possible Game 5 relief appearance. Ultimately, Morton went back out for the fifth.
3. Tampa's offense finally broke out
To be fair, there is no shame in getting shut down by Verlander and Cole. They are likely to finish 1-2 in the AL Cy Young voting (in either order) and they are arguably the two best pitchers in baseball. Games 1 and 2 went according to plan for the Astros.
Against Greinke and the Houston bullpen, however, a very good Rays offense finally broke out in Game 3. Tampa had the eighth best park-adjusted offense in baseball during the regular season. Holding them down during an entire best-of-five series was not going to be easy. Look at the numbers:
2 for 7
3 for 6
Choi, d'Arnaud, Kiermaier, Lowe, and Willy Adames combined to reach base eight times in Games 1-2 (four walks, three singles, one double). They reached base 10 times in Game 3 alone, and combined for four home runs and seven runs driven in. The four home runs ties the franchise single-game postseason record (2019 Wild Card Game, 2008 ALCS Game 3 vs. Red Sox).
Austin Meadows and Tommy Pham were Tampa Bay's two best players in the first two games of the series. Meadows went 2 for 6 with two walks in Game 1-2 and 1 for 5 in Game 3. Pham went 3 for 8 in Games 1-2 and 1 for 4 with a walk in Game 3. Those two were the Rays offense against Verlander and Cole. In Game 3, they finally got some help.
4. Altuve tied a postseason record
It did not take long for the Astros to take a 1-0 lead in Game 3. Jose Altuve cranked a solo home run on Morton's eighth pitch of the ballgame in the top of the first inning. It was his second homer of the series.
Altuve now has six career home runs in the LDS round, tied for the 11th most in history, and he has 10 career postseason home runs overall. That is tied for the most in history among second basemen. The leaderboard:
It should be noted Game 3 was Altuve's 35th career postseason game. Utley played in 68 postseason games, though he hit his 10th homer in (yup) his 35th postseason game. Altuve's postseason homer rate is historic, as was Utley's once upon a time.
Also, Altuve's 10 career postseason home runs are the second most among Venezuelan-born players in baseball history, trailing Miguel Cabrera's 11. He's also second on the franchise postseason homer list (George Springer leads with 11).
5. Rays fans showed up
It is no secret the Rays have difficulty filling Tropicana Field. It's a substandard ballpark and it's not particularly close to the city center. Driving from Tampa to Tropicana Field in rush hour to catch a game is no fun. The regular season attendance numbers tell you all you need to know:
The Athletics had the second lowest average attendance among postseason teams at 20,521 fans per game. No other postseason team was below 27,000. Despite Game 3 being played on a Monday afternoon, Rays fans represented well. The team's announced Game 3 attendance was 32,251 fans, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
That is their largest home crowd of the year by far -- their largest regular season crowd was 25,025 fans on Opening Day, coincidentally against the Astros -- and close to a sellout in the ballpark's untarped capacity (roughly 33,000). Should the Rays advance to the ALCS, the team plans to remove additional tarps in the upper deck to increase seating capacity to over 40,000.
6. The Astros are still in the driver's seat
Even with the Game 3 loss, the Astros still hold a 2-1 series lead over the Rays. They only need to win one of the next two games to advance, and they have Verlander and Cole looming. Historically, teams with a 2-1 series lead in a 2-2-1 best-of-five format have gone on to win the series 71 percent of the time, with the most common outcome being a series win in Game 4 (61 percent). Surely the Astros wanted to close out the ALDS on Monday. That didn't happen, but they're still in good position to advance.
7. The Rays are still alive
There will indeed be a Game 4. The Astros and Rays will continue this series with Game 4 at Tropicana Field on Tuesday. That game will begin at either 4:15 p.m. ET (Twins win Monday night) or 8:07 p.m. ET (Yankees win Monday night). Houston remains one win away from a third straight trip to the ALCS. The Rays have to win Game 4 to force a decisive Game 5 on Thursday.
Neither team has announced their Game 4 starting pitcher yet, but with Wade Miley throwing 63 pitches in long relief Monday, it strongly suggests Verlander will start Game 4 on short rest. The alternative would be rookie righty Jose Urquidy. The Rays figure to use an opener with righty Yonny Chirinos and lefty Ryan Yarbrough the primary bulk innings options.