ST. PETERSBURG -- Charlie Morton, who won both Game 7 of the American League Championship Series and World Series with the Astros in 2017, will get the ball for the Rays in Game 3 on Monday at Tropicana Field, as the right-hander looks to keep his former club from sweeping the series.
Morton redefined his career in the two years he was in Houston and parlayed that into a lucrative contract with the Rays, where he’s become the ace pitcher.
“For me, there’s no real mystery with the Astros,” Morton said. “It’s just kind of who they are to me. I mean, I know those guys pretty well, on and off the field. I’m well aware of the challenges that they present, and I know what they’re made of. I’m just going to go out there and make my pitches and try to make pitches and challenge them.”
When is the game and how can I watch it?
Game 3 will be today at 1:05 ET on MLB Network.
All games telecast on MLB Network, TBS, FOX and FS1 will be available to MLB.TV subscribers who are authenticated subscribers to the applicable network through a participating pay TV provider.
What do the starting lineups look like?
Astros: Manager AJ Hinch said rookie outfielder Kyle Tucker wouldn’t start Game 3, which means Josh Reddick is back in right field. Robinson Chirinos returns behind the plate to catch Zack Greinke as he has in nine of the veteran right-hander's 10 starts since he was traded to Houston.
Rays: Despite being shut down by Gerrit Cole in Game 2, the Rays are going to trot out their most balanced lineup for Game 3 against Greinke. The Rays could have inserted Eric Sogard or Joey Wendle, but this order has the ability to score early against the former AL Cy Young Award winner.
Who are the starting pitchers?
Astros: Greinke will be pitching on 11 days' rest in his Astros postseason debut. In his final start of the regular season on Sept. 25, Greinke carried a no-hitter into the ninth inning against the Mariners in Seattle. In his 10 starts with Houston, he’s 8-1 with a 3.02 ERA.
Greinke has an accomplished resume like Justin Verlander and Cole, but that’s where the similarities end. He throws in the low 90s, mixes his pitches and works down in the strike zone to get swings and misses.
Rays: There’s nobody else the Rays would rather have on the mound than Morton (16-6, 3.05 ERA) for Monday’s elimination game. He is 3-0 with a 0.64 ERA in elimination games and is one of just 11 pitchers to win three such games.
The Astros are no strangers to Morton as the right-hander recorded the last out for Houston during the 2017 World Series. Morton faced Houston twice during the regular season, going 1-1 with an 8.00 ERA. He allowed a season-high six runs on Aug. 27 in his return to Minute Maid Park but fared much better in his first start of the season on March 29, allowing just two runs over five innings.
How will the bullpens line up after the starter?
Astros: Houston used only three relievers in the first two games, totaling 3 1/3 innings in relief. Needless to say, the bullpen will be rested and ready. Jose Urquidy and Wade Miley -- both of whom are candidates to start a possible Game 4 -- will both be available in relief, as well. The big question: If the Astros are three outs from advancing, will Roberto Osuna get the ball? Hinch says yes.
Rays: The Rays have been aggressive with their bullpen, and there’s no reason to believe Game 3 will be any different. If anything, the Rays would lean on their bullpen even earlier in the game than usual with Morton on the mound, if necessary. Diego Castillo, Emilio Pagán and Nick Anderson will be used in multi-inning roles the rest of the postseason.
Are there any relievers who are unavailable?
Rays: Nope. With the season on the line, the Rays will be in an all-hands-on-deck situation.
Any injuries of note?
Astros: The Astros are at full strength.
Rays: Team is at full strength.
Who is hot and who is not?
Astros: Houston’s potent offense has yet to really click through the first two games, as the Astros have ridden dominating starting performances by Verlander and Cole to a 2-0 series lead. Alex Bregman (3-for-6 with two walks and a homer), Yordan Alvarez (3-for-8), Carlos Correa (3-for-8) and Yuli Gurriel (3-for-8) have swung the bat well so far. Meanwhile, Jose Altuve is 2-for-9 -- although he had a key home run in Game 2 -- and 2017 World Series MVP George Springer is 0-for-8 through two games.
Rays: Tommy Pham was the only Rays hitter to record multiple hits on Saturday and leads the team with a .417 (5-for-12) batting average in the postseason. Tampa Bay is still waiting for Travis d’Arnaud to get going at the plate. The Rays' catcher is just 1-for-12 in three postseason games.
Anything else fans might want to know?
This is the third time the Rays have fallen behind 2-0 in a postseason series, and each time they won Game 3 but ultimately lost the series. The Rays have never been swept in a postseason series. … The Astros are looking to sweep the ALDS for the second year in a row. They took down Cleveland in three games last year. … Houston is 9-18 all-time at Tropicana Field, including 5-12 since Hinch took over as manager prior to the 2015 season. … The Astros are 15-30 all-time on the road in the postseason.