MLB Game Preview - Tampa Bay at Houston
Tue Aug 27, 2019 8:10 PM EDT

PIT
5
PHI
4
F
BAL
2
WAS
0
F
ATL
1
TOR
3
F
CIN
8
MIA
5
F
CHC
5
NYM
2
F
CLE
10
DET
1
F
STL
6
MIL
3
F
TB
1
HOU
15
F
MIN
3
CHW
1
F
OAK
2
KC
1
F
BOS
10
COL
6
F
ARI
3
SF
2
F
TEX
2
LAA
5
F
LAD
9
SD
0
F
NYY
7
SEA
0
F
Verlander, Astros ready for Rays in series opener
Tue Aug 27, 2019 11:50 AM

The ebb and flow of the six-month regular season once again has the Houston Astros, winners of seven of their last eight games and co-owners of the best record in the American League following their sweep of the Los Angeles Angels, riding high with some considering what the final five weeks of the schedule might bring.

And while a third consecutive 100-win season appears all but certain, the Astros have goals to achieve beyond that benchmark. Earning home-field advantage would be a welcome reward for their perseverance through the 162-game slog, but that big-picture pursuit continues to yield to the day-by-day commitment to winning singular games, with the Astros focused on the visiting Tampa Bay Rays and their three-game series showdown starting Tuesday at Minute Maid Park.

"I don't want to think about the next five weeks," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "I want to think about an incredible day off (Monday) with the boys and get to a really good team with the Rays and just keep that one-day-at-a-time (mentality). I know it's a cliche, but it's real on how we have to operate.

"At the end of the season, we can count how many wins we have and see where that takes us, but our center focus is on Charlie Morton and the boys from Tampa."

Right-hander Justin Verlander (15-5, 2.77 ERA) will open the series on the mound for the Astros on Tuesday. He had been 5-0 with a 2.30 ERA over his previous seven starts before taking the loss Aug. 21 against the Detroit Tigers despite allowing just two runs on two hits while posting 11 strikeouts over nine innings in a 2-1 setback.

Verlander leads the majors in strikeouts (239) and WHIP (0.81) while pacing the American League in innings (178 2/3). He is 9-4 with a 3.30 ERA over 19 career starts against the Rays, including a victory on Opening Day when he allowed one run on three hits and one walk with nine strikeouts over seven innings.

Morton (13-5, 2.85) gets the start for the Rays. The veteran right-hander has alternated wins and losses since the All-Star break, going 3-3 with a 4.10 ERA over eight starts in that span while posting 55 strikeouts in 48 1/3 innings.

Morton is 4-5 with a 5.74 ERA over 10 career starts against the Astros, for whom he pitched two seasons (2017-18) and recorded the final out of the 2017 World Series. He defeated the Astros on March 29 after allowing two runs on three hits and two walks with eight strikeouts over five innings in a 4-2 victory at Tropicana Field.

Unlike Houston, the Rays have been treading water of late at 5-6 over their last 11 games, having dropped consecutive games at Baltimore last weekend after reaching a high-water mark of 22 games over .500. Injuries have undermined their exceptional pitching, the timing of which is critical given the Rays' three-way chase of the two American League wild-card bids alongside Cleveland and Oakland.

What happened against the Orioles wasn't beneficial, but the Rays must move on.

"They're over with now. They're not that important anymore," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Now we've got to ... focus on going to Houston, a good team, where we've got to play good baseball."

--Field Level Media

Team Record Comparison

Team Standings GB W-L Aw/Hm Stk L10
Tampa Bay            
Houston            

Scheduled Starting Pitchers

Charlie Morton - TB
Matchup
Season
vs. Opp Has not pitched vs. Houston
Justin Verlander - HOU
Matchup
Season
vs. Opp Has not pitched vs. Tampa Bay

Hot Batters (Last 10 team games)

Injury Report