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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]
Published Oct. 7
Updated Oct. 8

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.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. FILE - In this July 24, 2019, file photo, Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander throws to an Oakland Athletics batter during a baseball game in Houston. Verlander has been awarded his second AL Cy Young Award. MICHAEL WYKE  |  AP
    The Mets’ Jacob deGrom wins the NL award for the second straight year.
  2. Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash talks with reporters in the dugout the day after clinching a playoff spot. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    Former Ray Rocco Baldelli wins top honors after his first season with the Twins, Aaron Boone was second.
  3. Erik Neander, Tampa Bay Rays senior vice president of baseball operations and general manager, addresses the media during a press conference at Tropicana Field Friday, Oct. 11, 2019 in St. Petersburg. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Award came from a vote of team executives; Yankees Cashman was second.
  4. Flanked by his mother, Michelle Alonso, left, father Peter Alonso (blue shirt, standing), girlfriend Haley Walsh, right, and friends, New York Mets rookie first baseman Pete Alonso, 24, reacts as he finds out he has won the National League Rookie of the Year award on Monday at his home in Tampa.  Alonso, a Plant High graduate, made a grand entrance to the big leagues, hitting a major-league rookie and team-record 53 home runs for the Mets. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
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  5. Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash speaks at a news conference before an Oct. 1 American League wild-card game practice in Oakland, Calif. JEFF CHIU  |  AP
    Marc Topkin: The Twins Rocco Baldelli and Yankees Aaron Boone are the other two finalists for the hard-to-define award.
  6. Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Brandon Lowe (8) is showered with sunflower seeds after hitting a solo homer in the fourth inning against the Houston Astros in Game 3 of the American League Division Series Monday, Oct. 7, 2019 in St. Petersburg. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    Former Plant High and Florida star Pete Alonso a favorite for NL Rookie of the Year, to be announced Monday
  7. Erik Neander, Tampa Bay Rays senior vice president of baseball operations and general manager, says of the general manager meetings, which start this week, "We’d love to find a way to score a lot more runs without sacrificing run prevention.'' DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Rays Tales: Erik Neander says 2019 success provides “a stronger starting point” than they have had in a while. Plus, rumblings.
  8. Manager Kevin Cash has led the Rays to back-to-back seasons of 90 or more victories. He finished third in the American League Manager of the Year voting in 2018 and is one of three finalists again this year with the winner being announced on Tuesday. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    John Romano: His profile is as low as Tampa Bay’s payroll, but AL Manager of the Year candidate Kevin Cash consistently gets the most out of the Rays.
  9. ALLIE GOULDING   |   Times
Tampa Bay Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro (33) talks to umpire Bruce Dreckman at the bottom of the fourth inning against Texas Rangers on Sunday, June 30, 2019 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. 
 ALLIE GOULDING  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The other finalists, per a report, are Astros bench coach Joe Espada and former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler.
  10. Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash (16) pumps his fist while walking onto the field just prior to taking on the Houston Astros for Game 3 of the American League Division Series in St. Petersburg. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    Charlie Morton is in the top 3 for the Cy Young Award and Brandon Lowe for Rookie of the Year honors as well.
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