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Who should Rays fans root for: Astros/Yankees Edition

Let's start out with a softball.

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On the surface, this is easy. Of course we should be cheering for the downtrodden franchise that finally got its act together. Of course we should be clanging the cowbell for the team with zero World Series titles instead of the team with 69 of them. Of course we should let our banners fly for the club filled with young stars and nobodies from Out West instead of the old-and-busted guys from our division.

But when you dig a little deeper, you find that…okay, you still find that it's not that close. The only real excuse for cheering on the Yankees is when they're playing the Red Sox. But, believe it or not, there are some things to like about the boys in pinstripes, even if on the whole they still smell like Yankees.

Rookie first baseman Greg Bird seemingly came out of nowhere and stepped in admirably for the injured Mark Teixeira and would make a compelling October story line. Also: How much does Alex Rodriguez have left in the tank? And how weird has it been that the Yankee front office has managed to make A-Rod a sympathetic figure?

The rotation, which has been a work in progress most of the year, now has to deal with the loss of CC Sabathia after he was admitted to rehab, which leads to more questions.

Will the duct tape that's held Masahiro Tanaka together hold up? Is Luis Severino the real deal? Will Nathan Eovaldi wilt under the bright lights of October? Pairing those question marks with that lights-out bullpen could make for some compelling television.

But really, we all know who we're here to see: the Houston Astros.

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We're here for Carlos Correa, the kid shortstop who actually deserves the overused phenom title. We're here to watch Chris Carter and Luis Valbuena and George Springer come out of their shoes with every swing. We're here for Evan Gattis' beard and his bombs. We're here to watch Jose Altuve be Jose Altuve like only Jose Altuve can. We're here for Keuchel and McHugh and McCullers.

And if you weren't convinced already, we're here for Kaz.

Yeah, Scott Kazmir's only 2-6, with a 4.17 ERA / 5.19 FIP since coming over from the A's. And honestly, I don't even know if he's gonna pitch this post-season. But he is on the team, and this is Scott Kazmir, the DRay that made you fall in love with the DRays. Rays fans, you don't need another reason to cheer for the Astros.

The only thing that could possibly cancel out the Kaz factor would be if the opponent had somebody like, oh, say, Ben Zobrist on the roster. Which, coincidentally, the winner of this game will face.

And that is the final reason you should root for LAstros: because Houston/KC would be a fantastic matchup for Rays fans.

The Astros take on the Yankees at 8:00 PM EST on ESPN.