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The Houston Astros are set to visit Tropicana Field in Saint Petersburg, Florida for game 3 of the ALDS against the Tampa Bay Rays. The Houston Astros come into this matchup with a 2-0 record in this series, and they will be looking to continue their success after winning their recent home game against the Tampa Bay Rays, 3-1.

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Gerrit Cole received the starting nod for the Houston Astros, and he had success as he went 7.2 scoreless innings while striking out 15 batters. Alex Bregman had a solid game from the plate for the Houston Astros as he went 2 for 4 with 1 HR and 1 RBI.

Not the warnings from the owner, nor the insults from the outsiders. Not the shortcomings at the box office, nor the trespassing of Montreal.

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Once the first pitch is thrown by Charlie Morton at Tropicana Field in Game 3 of the American League Division Series on Monday afternoon, all the smears are temporarily washed away. And for three hours, we can remember what baseball in Tampa Bay was supposed to be.

What it should be.

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The crowd will be as large as any we’ve seen in this building since the middle of 2016. The game against the Astros will be as significant as any played at the Trop in six years. And the shivers will be as real as we once imagined they would be.


TampaBayTimesSports ✔ @TBTimes_Sports  The Rays come home facing long, but not impossible, odds, via @romano_tbtimes #RaysUp #TBvsHOU #HOUvsTB

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History says the end is near for overachieving Tampa Bay Rays Romano: The Rays owned mediocre teams in the regular season. The Astros are not mediocre. 16 8:00 PM - Oct 6, 2019 Twitter Ads info and privacy See TampaBayTimesSports's other Tweets “My family had season tickets to the Detroit Tigers when I was young, and I still have memories of the Tigers winning the World Series in 1968 when I was 6,’’ said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. “I can remember riding my bike with a ‘World Champions’ cardboard sign I made, taped to my handlebars.

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“That’s a memory that’s still vivid in my mind 51 years later because it was such an emotional moment in my life. That’s what baseball, or any sport, can do. It instills an emotion that transcends whatever else is going on in your life at the moment.’’

And yet that bond — that devotion — has not taken hold after 22 seasons in Tampa Bay. Or, at the least, it has not translated to the bleachers. Tampa Bay’s attendance of 1,178,735 this season is baseball’s lowest for a playoff team in a non-strike season since the 1975 Oakland Athletics. In case you’re wondering, that covers 284 different playoff teams.

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For two decades, we have sought answers and pointed fingers. And yet nothing has changed.

Winning teams, losing teams, it hasn’t mattered. Days like today are more rare than a quality closer around here. And all of the projections, studies and gut feelings of the 1980s and ’90s have not borne out.

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“We strongly felt if we built that stadium the community would step forward in a big way. We thought every day would be like (Monday),’’ said Bob Stewart, who was on the St. Petersburg City Council that approved the construction of Tropicana Field in 1985. “Obviously, we misread the situation.’’

Does that mean it is too late for Tampa Bay?

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The MLB Network recently produced a documentary called The 1995 Mariners: Saving Baseball in Seattle that detailed how one unexpected playoff run, and a thrilling Division Series victory against the Yankees, rescued the franchise at a time it was considering a move to Tampa Bay.

“We’ve got some pretty big boys that can pitch,” Hinch said. “Philosophically, whether it’s about the new-age opener or pulling guys the third time through, most of the people that support that haven’t had Verlander or Cole on their team.”

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In Game 3 at Tampa Bay, the Astros will face their old teammate Charlie Morton, who closed out Game 7 of the 2017 World Series. Morton would seem to give the Rays an edge, but the Astros will counter with Zack Greinke, a likely Hall of Famer who just had one of his best seasons.

“We’ve got Greinke, so we’ve got three aces,” said the Astros’ shortstop, Carlos Correa. “Every time they’re on the mound, they’re special.”

Collecting aces hardly guarantees a championship. Two recent teams that tried it — the 2011 Philadelphia Phillies (Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt) and the 2014 Detroit Tigers (Verlander, Max Scherzer, David Price and Rick Porcello) — did not escape the first round.

But there is always a chance that Verlander, Cole and Greinke could be like the 1963 Los Angeles Dodgers of Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Johnny Podres, who swept the Yankees in the World Series. Jeff Luhnow, the Astros’ general manager, said he believed this team was his best.


“For me, I think so,” Luhnow said. “We definitely had concerns about our bullpen toward the end of ’17. Bullpens get challenged in October, but I think this version of our bullpen is the best that we’ve had since I’ve been here, and the starting pitching is the best it’s been, and the lineup is the best it’s been.”

The Astros became the first team ever whose hitters had the fewest strikeouts in the majors and whose pitchers had the most. Cole finished the season with a record streak of nine starts with at least 10 strikeouts, helping him amass 326 whiffs in all.

On Saturday, he threw a career-high 118 pitches, and the Rays rarely even had a chance. Cole induced 33 swings and misses, the most in a postseason game this decade. He artfully mixed his pitches: Five of his strikeouts came on fastballs, five on curveballs and five on sliders.

Now the Rays are in a similar situation with owner Stu Sternberg proposing a radical new plan that would split the season between Montreal and Tampa Bay. Is it possible the Rays have a franchise-defining moment like that in front of sold-out crowds at Tropicana Field Monday and Tuesday?

“I think the damage has been done. I don’t think a few more thousand people for a couple of games against Houston is going to make any difference in Stu’s mind,’’ prospective Montreal partner Stephen Bronfman said on Mitch Melnick’s Montreal radio show this week. “They have a broken situation. They know they have to fix it, Major League Baseball knows they have to fix it, and we’re working on the fix.’’

What a pair we make. A team that often surpasses expectations, and a fan base that usually falls short of expectations.

And now the intersection of hope and reality will come together one more time Monday at Tropicana Field.

The Houston Astros are set to start Zack Greinke (18-5, 2.93 ERA) who had success in his latest start as he went 8.1 scoreless innings while striking out 9 batters against the Seattle Mariners. Zack Greinke struggled in his 1 start against the Tampa Bay Rays during the 2019 season as they gave up 5 earned runs in 5.2 innings.

The Tampa Bay Rays come into this matchup with a 0-2 record in this series, and they will be looking to rebound after dropping their recent road game against the Houston Astros, 3-1. Blake Snell received the starting nod for the Tampa Bay Rays, and he struggled as he gave up 1 earned runs in 3.1 innings. Avisail Garcia contributed the lone score of the game for the Tampa Bay Rays as he pitched in an RBI in the 9th inning.

The Tampa Bay Rays are set to start Charlie Morton (16-6, 3.05 ERA) who had success in his latest start as he went 5 scoreless innings while striking out 4 batters against the Oakland Athletics. Charlie Morton struggled in his 2 starts against the Houston Astros during the 2019 season as he posted an 8.00 ERA.

The Houston Astros have shown why they are the best team in the AL through the first two games of this series as their amazing starting rotation has kept the Rays scoreless. The Astros will be throwing their 3rd part of their “Big 3” as Zack Greinke will take the mound, and he has been dominant this season with an 18-5 record and a 2.93 ERA. While the Rays have one of the best pitchers in the AL on the mound in Charlie Morton, I don’t believe they have the caliber of bats to compete with a team like the Houston Astros.