Game 7 is upon us thanks to the Houston Astros' three straight wins over the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Championship Series.
The Astros staved off elimination in Game 6 on Friday night thanks to another dazzling pitching performance from Framber Valdez. They will turn to Lance McCullers Jr. on Saturday night with a World Series appearance on the line.
On the other side, Charlie Morton will take the mound in an effort to help the Rays avoid a historic collapse. He has experience in these situations, including being the winning pitcher in Game 7 of Houston's World Series win against the Los Angeles Dodgers three years ago.
2020 ALCS Schedule
Date: Saturday, Oct. 17
Start Time: 8:37 p.m. ET
Live Stream: MLB.tv
Odds: via DraftKings.
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Trust Charlie Morton in a Big Spot
Morton has developed into one of the best big-game pitchers in Major League Baseball. The 36-year-old owns a 3.16 ERA and 55 strikeouts over 51.1 innings in 11 postseason appearances.
In his first four playoff starts with the Rays, dating back to last year, Morton has allowed two earned runs in 20 innings. He shut down Houston's lineup with five scoreless innings in Game 2 of the ALCS on Monday.
Of the Astros' five hits in that game, four were singles. Morton has only allowed one home run in his past eight playoff appearances after giving up one in each of his first three, dating back to 2013 with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Rays manager Kevin Cash may have second thoughts about pulling his starter quickly after the bullpen struggled in Game 6. After Blake Snell was pulled in the fourth when the first two hitters reached, Diego Castillo and Shane McClanahan gave up five runs (four earned) on eight hits in 2.2 innings.
Cash did stand by his decision after Tampa Bay's 7-4 loss, but the Astros have gotten to his relievers for eight runs over the past three games.
Morton's reputation suggests he will be able to pitch into the sixth inning while allowing only one or two runs.
Keep Riding Jose Altuve's Hot Bat
After having just two singles in his first 14 playoff at-bats, Jose Altuve has been a machine over the past eight games. The 2017 American League MVP is 14-for-30 with seven extra-base hits (five homers) and eight RBI.
In his first matchup against Morton in the series, Altuve went 1-for-3 with a single and one strikeout. He also committed two errors in the game, leading to speculation that he might have the yips.
Altuve committed another error in Game 3 but has since been fine in the field. The six-time All-Star was among many Astros players who looked lost during the regular season. He set career lows in batting average (.219), on-base percentage (.286) and slugging percentage (.344).
But something unlocked in Altuve during Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Oakland Athletics. Until he shows any sign of slowing down, there's no reason to think Morton and the rest of Tampa Bay's pitching staff will be able to get him out.