The Houston Astros hope to keep their season alive with a third straight win Friday night but must go through a pitcher who beat them five days ago when they take on Blake Snell and the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series in San Diego.
The sixth-seeded Astros trailed 3-0 in the best-of-seven series before beating the Rays at their own game -- one-run contests -- with a pair of 4-3 wins that have narrowed top-seeded Tampa Bay's lead in the series to 3-2.
Game 7, if necessary, would be played Saturday.
Left-hander Snell (2-1) helped put the Astros in their big hole with five innings of one-run ball in a 2-1, series-opening win Sunday.
The 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner gave up a first-inning home run to Jose Altuve, his first of three in the series, before watching his teammates rally into a 2-1 lead before turning the ball over to the Tampa Bay bullpen.
Snell has opened each of Tampa Bay's three series, sandwiching a loss to the New York Yankees with wins over Toronto and the Astros. He has been charged with five runs on 13 hits in 15 2/3 innings in those games, walking six and striking out 15.
Snell faced the Astros three times in last year's AL Division Series, losing his only start 3-1.
In the regular season, he's gone 2-2 with a 4.73 ERA against Houston in six starts.
"We'll be OK," Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier insisted after Thursday's walk-off loss. "We've been doing it all year. The stage is set for (Snell). I have a pretty good idea what Blake Snell is going to show up."
The Astros will counter with left-hander Framber Valdez (2-1), who was the losing pitcher in his Game 1 head-to-head with Snell, allowing two runs and four hits in six innings. He walked four and struck out eight.
One of the runs came on the first of Randy Arozarena's three home runs so far in the series.
Valdez was last seen warming up in the Houston bullpen in the ninth inning of Thursday's win, being prepared to enter the game if it had gone to the 10th.
Carlos Correa prevented that from occurring with his one-out, game-winning homer off Nick Anderson in the bottom of the ninth.
"We had a players meeting in the clubhouse," Correa said of a get-together before Game 5. "We said we don't want to go home yet, so we have to do something about it. We're excited. We've got to get back to work (Friday)."
Like Snell, Valdez will be making his fourth start of the postseason. He had beaten Minnesota and Oakland before Sunday's head-to-head with the Rays.
"We're going to see a guy, Valdez, that we just saw five days ago. Hopefully that familiarity will play in our favor and get the bats going," Rays manager Kevin Cash said of his team, which has been held to a total of 32 hits in the five games. "We're playing good baseball against a very good team. A lot of back-and-forth. I'm very confident we'll be ready to go."
The Rays had never faced Valdez before Sunday's game.
--Field Level Media