The Tampa Bay Rays have played like the best team in the American League all season long. Now they’ll have to knock off one more big market team, the Houston Astros, in the ALCS if they want to go to the World Series.
The Rays open the ALCS as -184 favorites to win the best-of-seven series over the Astros (+150), according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
Rays, Astros Bring Different Narratives to ALCS
The series kicks off on Sunday night at Petco Park in San Diego. Tampa Bay is relishing the opportunity to take on another of baseball’s traditional powerhouses after knocking off the Yankees in a thrilling five-game ALDS series.
“We did beat [ESPN’s] golden child,” Rays pitcher Pete Fairbanks said after the Game 5 win. “I know they cater to all the big boys. We’re fine with it. We love it. We’re a good ballclub. We’re trying to go out there and win no matter how big the market is that the team we’re playing is made of.”
The Rays have made a habit of winning this year. They put together a 40-20 regular season campaign, then blew away the Toronto Blue Jays in two games before their duel with the Yankees. Tampa Bay now stands as the +230 second choice to win the World Series, trailing only the Los Angeles Dodgers (+150).
|Astros vs. Rays Odds – ALCS Game 1 (via FanDuel Sportsbook
|Astros (Valdez): +120
|Rays (Snell): -138
|Astros (+1.5): -168
|Rays (-1.5): +142
|Over 8: -118
|Under 8: -104
The Astros haven’t enjoyed such a smooth campaign. Houston came into the year as MLB’s top villain in the wake of the cheating scandal that tarnished its 2017 championship campaign.
Despite that atmosphere, the Astros initially ranked among the top World Series contenders. But Houston stumbled to a 29-31 record, good only for the No. 6 seed in the American League.
That led to the narrative that the Astros only won because they cheated. But during the playoffs, the Astros have proven themselves in empty stadiums away from home. A victory over the Rays could completely silence the critics.
“Our team understand that in the playoffs, you start over,” Astros outfielder George Springer told reporters. “You start fresh and go from there.”
Snell, Valdez Take the Mound in Game 1
The Rays will throw former Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell in Sunday’s Game 1 of the ALCS. Snell pitched on Monday in a 9-3 loss to the Yankees, when he gave up four runs over five innings. The Astros are countering with southpaw Framber Valdez, who is 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA over 12 innings so far in the playoffs.
“I feel really proud and really thankful for the opportunity this year,” Valdez told reporters. “It means a lot to me for the manager to show that much confidence in me. I’ve demonstrated they can have that confidence in me with the effort I put forth this season.”
Oddsmakers give the edge to the Rays and Snell. Tampa Bay comes in as a -138 favorite over Houston (+120) in Game 1.