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MLB playoffs 2019: Astros-Rays preview of winner-take-all ALDS Game 5


a group of baseball players that are standing in front of a crowd: Gerrit Cole will start Game 5 for the Astros. © Troy Taormina, USA TODAY Sports Gerrit Cole will start Game 5 for the Astros. After dropping the first two games of the American League Division Series, the Tampa Bay Rays have rallied back to force a decisive Game 5 against the Houston Astros.

If Tampa Bay completes the comeback Thursday at Minute Maid Park, it could go down as one of the biggest postseason upsets in recent Major League Baseball history.

Since the introduction of the Division Series in 1995, only seven teams have ever rallied from an 0-2 deficit to win the best-of-five series, most recently the Yankees against the Indians in 2017.

"Welcome to postseason baseball. This is as good as it gets," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Tuesday. "We worked all season to get home field. We have it for a reason."

The Rays beat Justin Verlander in Game 4, but their reward is a matchup with Astros' co-ace Gerrit Cole (20-5, 2.50 ERA). The Cy Young candidate dominated Game 2 of the series, tossing 7 ⅔ shutout innings with 15 strikeouts for the win. It was the first time since 2000 that a pitcher has struck out 15 in a postseason game.

Having missed most of the season due to injury, Tyler Glasnow (6-1, 1.78 ERA) gets the start for the Rays. The right-hander had a solid outing in Game 1, pitching into the fifth inning and only gave up two earned runs. Glasnow isn't going to be able to go deep into the game, but if he can keep the Rays close for four or five innings, he will have done his job.

Here's what to expect in Game 5:

Why the Astros will win

Simply put, the odds are in their favor with Cole on the mound. "Dominant" probably isn't a strong enough word to describe the 29-year-old's outing in Game 2, but it's left to be seen whether or not the Rays learned anything while being completely shut down.

"I think what you do is similar to what we just had with Verlander. The familiarity of just seeing him," Rays manager Kevin Cash said.

Even if Cole is great again, the Astros are going to need to score. They've only plated 13 runs in the first four games and a large part of that has been the struggles of George Springer (2-for-17) and Michael Brantley (2-for-16), who are both due to break out.

Additionally, Tampa had a "bullpen game" Tuesday and used six pitchers, so its relief corps could be a bit worn out. That's certainly something this experienced Houston team can exploit in the late innings.

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Why the Rays will win

The Astros looked listless over the two games in St. Petersburg, Floridaand all the momentum seems to belong to the Rays right now.

Jumping on Verlander in Game 4 showed that this team can make the necessary adjustments. Despite the pitiful showing against Cole in Game 2, the Rays will have to feel plenty confident for the rematch.

And you can't discount the fact that the Rays have a chip on its shoulder. They were written off before the series and left for dead after dropping the first two games against the 107-win Astros. 

"All year, you know, we've been getting talked down," Rays outfielder Tommy Pham said after Game 4. "With the last two games, the way we played, the whole world has seen how good of a team we are and how well-rounded we are."

When it comes to the bullpen, reigning Cy Young winner Blake Snell pitched in relief in Game 4, but only threw eight pitches and could be good to go for a high-leverage spot Thursday.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLB playoffs 2019: Astros-Rays preview of winner-take-all ALDS Game 5

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