TAMPA (AP) – The Houston Astros may be second-guessing themselves by starting Justin Verlander.
The Tampa Bay Rays jumped on the 2019 Cy Young candidate early in Game 4 of the American League Division Series en route to a 4-1 victory to force a decisive Game 5.
Verlander, who was starting on short rest for the first time in his 15-year career, was chased after 3⅔ innings. He allowed four runs, seven hits, including two home runs, and three walks on 84 pitches.
That was it for Verlander.
The Rays bullpen and defense did the rest.
Rays manager Kevin Cash employed the ‘opener’ for Game 4 and used six pitchers to keep the Astros offense at bay. Diego Castillo, Ryan Yarbrough, Nick Anderson, Colin Poche, Emilio Pagan, and Blake Snell combined for six hits, one earned run and eight strikeouts.
The Rays took care of business at home and outscored the Astros 14-4 at Tropicana Field.
Three days rest, three earned runs. First inning.
It started early.
Starting on three days’ rest, Verlander labored in the first inning with 32 pitches. He gave up a solo home run to DH Tommy Pham on a 2-2 slider, but the Rays weren’t done. Ji-Man Choi walked. Avisaíl García singled. Travis d’Arnaud hit a two-out single to bring Choi home. Joey Wendle followed with an RBI single. Rays led 3-0.
“(Verlander) is one of the best pitchers in the world,” said Astros manager A.J. Hinch on Monday about his decision to start Verlander. “It’s no more complicated than that.”
Since 1995, pitchers starting on three days’ rest or less since their last start in the postseason had gone a combined 30-44 with a 4.58 ERA across 120 games, according to STATS.
In an uncharacteristic start, Verlander allowed four batted balls with a 100+ mph exit velocity in the first inning alone. That’s tied for the most he’s allowed in any inning tracked by Statcast since 2015. He’s done it just twice before, and not since 2017. And in Game 1, he threw 100 pitches and didn’t allow one batted ball over 100 mph.
State of the Series
The Rays evened the series two games apiece against the mighty Astros. Game 5 returns to Houston on Thursday at Minute Maid Park.
The Rays offense will have yet another tall test against Astros starting pitcher Gerrit Cole, who was electric in his Game 2 start. Cole dominated and became one of seven pitchers to record 15 strikeouts in a playoff game, and only Bob Gibson (17 strikeouts, 1968) and Kevin Brown (16, 1998) have had more.
The Rays likely will turn to Tyler Glasnow, who was 6-1 with a 1.78 ERA in 12 starts.