After two incredible final game deciders in the National League that saw both underdogs advance to the Championship round, the American League now takes centre stage. Ben Steele previews the action.
"Cole, a 29-year-old former first overall pick, has not lost any of his last 15 starts, boasts a 1.67 ERA in that time and faces a team who are not known for offensive firepower."
Intense series hinges on Cole
The American League Division Series heads back to Houston for Game 5, as the Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Rays fight it out for the right to face the New York Yankees in the Championship Series. The Astros will be disappointed that they even have to play this game, wins for Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole (who starts again tonight) saw them jump out to a 2-0 lead in the series but Tampa hammered Zack Greinke and then produced an impressive bullpen performance on Tuesday to secure a 4-1 win to tie the series.
Tonight, Gerrit Cole will be favourite to earn the win, particularly after his record setting 15-strikeout performance in Game 2. Cole will face Tyler Glasnow who has had more rest the Cole, but lost in his only playoff outing this year. Cole, a 29-year-old former first overall pick, has not lost any of his last 15 starts, boasts a 1.67 ERA in that time and faces a team who are not known for offensive firepower. Although there will be little margin for error, against a good defensive team, Cole should have enough.
Altuve hoping to continue strong October
Astros second baseman Jose Altuve has been an iconic part of Houston's rise to glory. The diminutive infielder has produced special performances in clutch situations time and time again over the last few years, and he will be looking to hit a third home run of the postseason tonight. If he achieves that it will be his second against Glasnow in this series. A two-run homer in Game 1 blew the game open and allowed Houston to start the series off strong.
Pitcher Tyler Glasnow is more than a foot taller than Altuve and this David v Goliath battle will be key to tonight's decider. The Rays are an exceptional defensive outfit and spent much of the 2019 season stifling some of the best hitters in the game. Altuve is an all-round hitter, he has enough power to worry any opposing pitcher, but he also consistently boasts a healthy batting average. The Venezuelan's ability to get on base makes him crucial to the gameplan. Look for him to hit well, and guide the Astros to victory, setting up a mouth-watering series against the Yankees.