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Rays-Astros ALDS Game 3: What we learned

Thomas Bassinger: Tampa Bay finally breaks through against Houston’s vaunted pitching rotation.
Kevin Kiermaier, right, celebrates his three-run homer with Travis d'Arnaud during the second inning of the Rays' 10-3 win over the Astros on Monday. [DIRK SHADD  |  Times]
Kevin Kiermaier, right, celebrates his three-run homer with Travis d'Arnaud during the second inning of the Rays' 10-3 win over the Astros on Monday. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published Oct. 7, 2019
Updated Oct. 8, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG — Observations from the Rays’ Game 3 win over the Astros on Monday in their American League Division Series:

1. In the first two games of the series, Astros starters Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole didn’t allow a runner past first base in a combined 14⅔ innings of work. When Zack Greinke sent the Rays down in order on nine pitches in the first inning, it seemed as if Game 3 would be more of the same. ...

2. … Until Greinke left a 2-1 pitch out over the plate against Kevin Kiermaier in the bottom of the second inning. Kiermaier changed the direction of the game when he, in his first career postseason at-bat at Tropicana Field, drove Greinke’s 87-mph changeup 407 feet to right-center field for a three-run home run. He had been 1-for-11 in the playoffs.

3. Greinke struggled to locate his offspeed stuff. In the bottom of the third, Ji-Man Choi launched another changeup 404 feet. In the bottom of the fourth, Brandon Lowe smacked a hanging curveball for the Rays’ third home run of the game.

4. For the first time since the Diamondbacks traded him to the Astros, Greinke didn’t get through four innings. He hadn’t allowed three home runs in a game since opening day and in a postseason game since Oct. 2, 2011.

5. The Rays scored more runs Monday (10) than they had in their previous three postseason games combined (eight). Tampa Bay hadn’t scored 10 runs in a playoff game in more than a decade. On Oct. 14, 2008, the Rays beat the Red Sox 13-4 in Game 4 of the AL Championship Series.

6. Of Tampa Bay’s 18 runs this postseason, 11 have come via home runs.

7. With the Rays facing elimination, Charlie Freakin’ Morton didn’t freak out. He wasn’t sharp or efficient, but he bounced back after allowing a first-inning home run to Jose Altuve. He also clamped down after surrendering a leadoff double to Altuve in the top of the third inning. He left the game after only five innings and 93 pitches, which you would think keeps him in play if Tampa Bay forces a Game 5.

8. Morton allowed one run on three hits and struck out nine. His nine strikeouts match the franchise postseason record, set by Matt Garza in the 2008 ALCS. Morton also joins Garza, as well as James Shields and Andy Sonnanstine, as the only Rays pitchers to win two games in a single postseason.

9. It made sense that Astros manager A.J. Hinch brought Wade Miley into the game to face Austin Meadows in the bottom of the fourth inning. It set up a lefty-on-lefty matchup. Miley had held left-handed batters to a .207 average during the regular season and had allowed only 10 extra-base hits. Meadows, however, went 2-for-3 with a home run and three RBI against him. The winner: Meadows, who hit a two-run double to deep center field.

10. The Rays have won more games this month than the Bucs.

Contact Thomas Bassinger at tbassinger@tampabay.com. Follow @tometrics.

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