The Rays beat the Astros, 5-2, to go up 3-0 in the American League Championship Series on Tuesday. That 3-0 series lead is about as solid as you can get aside from winning the series: In postseason history, teams taking a 3-0 lead in any best-of-seven series have gone on
The Rays beat the Astros, 5-2, to go up 3-0 in the American League Championship Series on Tuesday. That 3-0 series lead is about as solid as you can get aside from winning the series: In postseason history, teams taking a 3-0 lead in any best-of-seven series have gone on to win 37 of 38 times -- 97 percent of the time. The only team to rally to win such a series was the 2004 Red Sox in the ALCS against the Yankees. Of the 37 teams to go ahead 3-0, 30 have completed the sweep in Game 4, five have finished it off in Game 5 and two have won in Game 6.
So, how have the Rays gotten here? A lot of great defense, and some timely hits. In related news, the Astros continue to hit the ball hard, but not quite enough to have anything to show for it. The Astros had a .265 expected batting average to the Rays’ .216 in Game 3, after leading, .357 to .167 in the metric in Game 2 and .319 to .189 in Game 1. That tells us they’re making quality contact, and more of it than the Rays are. Yet the series is still three games to none in favor of Tampa Bay.
Here are eight notable facts and figures from ALCS Game 3 between the Rays and Astros.
1. The Rays’ defense continues to be a story throughout the postseason. Game 2 was all about the infield defense, and Game 3 was a highlight reel for the outfield. Both Kevin Kiermaier and Hunter Renfroe made five-star catches, with both coming in at 20 percent catch probability.
Kiermaier’s, in the third inning on a ball hit by Carlos Correa, was a play in which he had to go 64 feet in 3.8 seconds of opportunity time. Renfroe’s, in the seventh on George Springer, was similar: He had to cover 63 feet in 3.8 seconds.
Kiermaier led the Majors in five-star catches in 2020, while Renfroe had three himself in 2019 -- including one at Petco Park as a member of the Padres.
2. The Rays continue to work out of trouble if and when it does come up. The Rays have now stranded all 20 inherited runners they’ve had so far this postseason. That broke a tie at 17 entering the game with the 2006 Cardinals for the longest such streak to start a postseason, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
3. The Rays scored five runs in the top of the sixth to take the lead, punctuated by Renfroe’s two-run double. Renfroe was above-average in exit velocity in 2020, but this hit was not of the hard-hit variety. His double had a 68.4 mph exit velocity, the lowest exit velocity by a Rays batter on any extra-base hit this season (including the playoffs).
4. On the other side, solid contact by the Astros and a lack of overall success has been a storyline so far this series, and it continued in Game 3. The Astros have 31 hard-hit batted balls so far in the series to the Rays’ 21, and seven barrels to the Rays’ three, to no avail.
5. The Astros hit two home runs in the game, by Jose Altuve and Michael Brantley, but still lost the game. It’s just the second time this postseason a team has out-homered its opponent in a game and lost, with the other coming in National League Division Series Game 2 between the Padres and Dodgers, when the Padres hit two homers to the Dodgers’ one.
6. The Astros left 10 runners on base in Game 3, after leaving 11 on in Game 2 and 10 in Game 1. They’re the first team in postseason history to lose three straight games, leaving at least 10 runners on base in each of them.
Their three straight games with 10 runners left on is tied for the second-longest such streak in a single postseason. The only team with more consecutive games leaving at least 10 on was the 1973 Mets in the World Series, with four straight from Games 2-5, when they went 3-1.
7. Randy Arozarena played another important offensive role for the Rays, knocking three hits, including a double. His four three-hit games this postseason are tied for the most in a single postseason, with Altuve in 2017, Albert Pujols in '04 and Edgar Martinez and Jay Buhner in 1995.
Arozarena’s eight extra-base hits this postseason are one shy of tying the franchise record for a single postseason of nine, held by B.J. Upton and Evan Longoria in 2008. His 18 hits overall are tied for fourth-most by a rookie in a postseason, according to Elias. The only rookies with more hits in a postseason: Derek Jeter (22) in 1996, Yuli Gurriel (21) in 2017 and Chipper Jones (20) in 1995.
8. Altuve’s night began with a good stat, but ended up with another. He homered in the first inning, giving the Astros a 1-0 lead. It was his 17th career postseason home run, tying Springer, Nelson Cruz, David Ortiz and Jim Thome for seventh-most in postseason history.
Later in the game, in the sixth inning, he made another error -- marking his fourth this postseason, tying the total he had in the entire regular season. It came just a day after he had his first-ever two-error game in the postseason.
Sarah Langs is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in New York. Follow her on Twitter @SlangsOnSports.