Though the Rays and Astros will be meeting for the second straight postseason, the 2020 American League Championship Series figures to have a bit of a different look from their showdown in the '19 AL Division Series.
After all, Gerrit Cole (now with the Yankees) and Justin Verlander (out for the season) started four of the five games for the Astros. Meanwhile, Rays breakout sensation Randy Arozarena was still a member of the Cardinals and Tommy Pham (now with the Padres) led the club with seven hits in the series.
Still, their back-and-forth meeting in the 2019 ALDS provided plenty of highlights. Here's a game-by-game recap of that series:
Tyler Glasnow went toe-to-toe with Verlander through four innings before Jose Altuve finally opened the scoring with a two-run homer in the fifth. Houston added two more runs later in the frame when Tampa Bay second baseman Brandon Lowe misplayed Yuli Gurriel's popup, pushing the Astros' lead to 4-0. That was more than enough for Verlander, who allowed only one hit and three walks while striking out eight over seven scoreless innings, to give Houston a 1-0 series lead.
Result: Astros 6, Rays 2
Former Astros co-ace Cole picked up right where Verlander left off, turning in one of the most dominant outings in postseason history. Cole, the now-Yankees ace whom the Rays faced twice in the 2020 ALDS, struck out 15 over 7 2/3 scoreless innings. Offensively, Alex Bregman hit a fourth-inning solo homer off Blake Snell, while Martín Maldonado and Carlos Correa added RBI singles in the seventh and eighth innings, respectively. Those proved to be crucial, as Tampa Bay put together a rally against Astros closer Roberto Osuna in the ninth. The Rays scored a run on former outfielder Avisaíl García's RBI groundout, then loaded the bases with only one out before Houston called on reliever Will Harris to close it out. Harris escaped the jam by striking out Travis d'Arnaud and inducing a game-ending groundout from Kevin Kiermaier.
Result: Astros 3, Rays 1
After being limited to just three runs in the first two games, including zero against Astros starters, the Rays came out swinging. Facing elimination, Tampa Bay tagged Zack Greinke for six runs on five hits (three homers) over just 3 2/3 innings. Kiermaier started the outburst with a three-run homer in the second, while Ji-Man Choi added a solo shot in the third and Lowe went deep to lead off the fourth. Willy Adames later chipped in another home run off reliever Wade Miley, as the Rays put up 10 runs on 12 hits behind a strong performance from Charlie Morton, who struck out nine while allowing just an Altuve solo homer over five innings.
Result: Rays 10, Astros 3
Looking to wrap up the series, the Astros went back to Verlander on short rest for Game 4 -- but things went very different this time around. Pham set the tone with a solo homer as Tampa Bay's second batter of the game, while d'Arnaud and Joey Wendle added run-scoring hits later in the inning to give the Rays a 3-0 lead after the first. Adames led off the fourth with a home run and Choi chased Verlander after working a two-out walk later in the frame. Verlander departed having allowed four runs on seven hits, including two homers, and three walks over 3 2/3 innings. The Rays, meanwhile, relied on a bullpen game to keep their season alive. Six Tampa Bay relievers combined to hold Houston to just one run and six hits. That performance included a solid 1 2/3-inning start from Diego Castillo, 2 1/3 scoreless innings from star reliever Nick Anderson and a two-out save from Snell.
Result: Rays 4, Astros 1
Tampa Bay's bid to rally from a 2-0 series deficit came to an abrupt halt in the winner-take-all Game 5. The Astros jumped all over Glasnow, roping four straight hits to take a 3-0 lead before the right-hander had even recorded an out. Glasnow settled down and escaped the first inning with back-to-back strikeouts of Correa and Josh Reddick, but not before allowing four runs off five hits. Though Eric Sogard responded with a leadoff homer against Cole to start the ensuing inning, that would mark the end of Tampa Bay's offensive production. Cole racked up another 10 strikeouts while holding the Rays to one run on two hits over eight stellar innings. Michael Brantley and Altuve hit back-to-back homers to open the eighth to help cushion the lead, but that was simply insurance as the Astros clinched their spot in the 2019 ALCS.
Result: Astros 6, Rays 1