After defeating the Yankees last night in a climatic Game 5 victory, the Rays will move from the ALDS almost directly into the American League Championship Series, beginning Sunday night in San Diego. The Rays announced that left-hander Blake Snell will be on the mound to start Game 1 against the Astros, making it three postseason series openers in a row for the former AL Cy Young Award winner.
Snell started Game 1 of the Rays’ wild card series with the Blue Jays, earning the win after tossing 5 2/3 shutout innings. It was a different story in Game 1 of the ALDS, as New York struck for four runs (three on solo homers) in five innings of work against Snell, who allowed six hits and two walks while striking out four batters.
That outing marked Snell’s only ALDS appearance, so he’ll head into Sunday’s game on five full days of rest. The extra day has generally benefited Snell during his career, as he has a 2.78 ERA, 2.94 K/BB rate, and 10.7 K/9 in 44 career starts on five days’ rest, as opposed to a 3.72 ERA in 43 career starts on the normal four days’ rest.
The Astros didn’t excel against left-handed pitching this season, finishing 20th of 30 teams in wRC+ (94) and slugging percentage (.403), 22nd in batting average (.232), and 26th in OBP (.299) against southpaws in 2020. Of course, the playoffs have been a much different story for Houston’s offense, as the Astros have been tearing the cover off the ball over six games against the Twins and Athletics. The Astros’ postseason OPS against lefties (.846) is actually higher than their OPS against right-handers (.836).
While no announcement has yet been made, Charlie Morton seems like the logical candidate to start Game 2 for the Rays. Morton started Game 3 of the ALDS on Wednesday, and thus be lined up for Game 2 of the ALCS on regular rest.