The Houston Astros are heating up as they are 8-2 in their last 10 games and are currently sitting tied for second place in the AL West with a 15-12 record. They won the first two games in this ALCS rematch and are looking to sweep the series. They will be sending righty Cristian Javier, who hasn’t given up a run in his last three starts. He last pitched against the Seattle Mariners and went seven shutout innings while allowing two hits with three walks and six strikeouts.
The Tampa Bay Rays have been struggling to begin the season as they are last in the AL East with a 13-15 record and are on a three-game losing streak, including dropping the first two games of this series. Righty veteran Rich Hill will be on the mound and is coming off a good start where he picked up the loss against the Oakland Athletics. He lasted six innings and two runs on two hits with a pair of walks and a season-high 10 strikeouts.
Not Coming up ShortThe Houston Astros have been vilified around the country for their cheating scandal and a player that took a lot of flack for it was second baseman Jose Altuve. The 2017 AL MVP has been struggling in his last seven games as he has a .207/.226/.241 slash line with one walk and six strikeouts in that span. He is still below his career numbers but is 19-for-69 with a home run and eight RBI and added a stolen base to his numbers. If he can continue to improve this season, it can do wonders for the Houston Astros this season.
Cristian Javier has been having a good start to his 2021 season according to his Baseball Savant page. He is in the 86th percentile in strikeout percentage, 79th percentile in whiff percentage, 35th percentile in average exit velocity, and 58th percentile in walk percentage. He is relying on four pitches (fastball, slider, curveball, changeup) and his slider has been nearly unhittable this season. Batters are hitting .050 (1-for-20) against it with 13 strikeouts. He has only faced the Rays twice in his career out of the bullpen and both were in the 2020 ALCS. In those two outings, he pitched three innings and allowed three runs on two hits with two walks and five strikeouts.
High Flying OutfielderThere usually isn’t a fly ball that center fielder Kevin Kiermaier isn’t catching or in his range. It makes sense as he isn’t known for his hitting ability. He is in a bit of a slump at the plate as he has a .167/.259/.250 slash line with two walks and 10 strikeouts in his last seven games. His season numbers aren’t great as he is 11-for-53 with three RBI and a stolen base. He hasn’t gotten a hit in his last 10 at-bats so he needs to get going before his production at the plate doesn’t warrant him in the lineup.
The numbers on Rich Hill’s Baseball Savant page are mostly in the blues-to-light red, which means he is around average or below average. He is in the 13th percentile in whiff percentage, 43rd percentile in hard-hit percentage, 37th percentile in barrel percentage, and 60th percentile in walk percentage. He is experiencing his highest exit velocity (89.8 MPH) since Statcast was recorded in 2015. He has a five-pitch arsenal (fastball, curveball, cutter, slider, sinker) and has decreased his fastball usage in four consecutive seasons. His heater has been getting rocked as it has a .345 batting average against it with three homers and 12 strikeouts on it. Hill has a career 3.68 ERA at the Trop so you should expect a decent outing from a veteran pitcher.