With the Yankees closing out a three-game sweep of the Twins in the other American League Division Series on Monday, and with both National League Division Series already set for Game 5s on Wednesday, the ALDS Game 4 matchup between the Astros and Rays took center stage on Tuesday night.
Tampa Bay had scored just one run in 19 1/3 innings this year against Astros’ Game 4 starter Justin Verlander, and that run came in the Rays’ very first plate appearance of the 2019 regular season, when leadoff man Austin Meadows went deep to left field off the future Hall of Famer. Verlander would go on to allow just two other hits, and no other runs, in a 5-1 season-opening victory for Houston at Tampa Bay’s Tropicana Field.
Back at The Trop on Tuesday, with a whole lot more on the line and a whole lot more energy in the building, the pesky Rays managed to flip the script on Verlander in a 4-1 victory to force this American League Division Series to a decisive Game 5 on Thursday at Houston's Minute Maid Park.
Verlander, starting on three days of rest for essentially the first time in his 15-year major league career, surrendered three runs on four hits in a 32-pitch first inning. It was the most pitches he had thrown in an opening frame since 2017. Tommy Pham got the party started, driving a hanging changeup to left field for a solo home run that carried an exit velocity of 107.8 mph. Tampa Bay then went walk-single-flyout-single-double, with all three hits clocking above 100 mph off the bat. Verlander threw 100 pitches in his dominant ALDS Game 1 start last Friday against the Rays, and not one pitch was hit harder than 100 mph.
Houston had a prime opportunity to get back into the game in the top of the fourth inning when Jose Altuve stroked a leadoff single to left field and Yordan Alvarez launched a out-out double off the outfield wall, but Altuve got cut down at home plate on that Alvarez double as Rays shortstop Willy Adames executed a pitch-perfect relay throw, seamlessly connecting center fielder Kevin Kiermaier to catcher Travis d’Arnaud. Adames then led off in the bottom of the fourth and parked a long home run to the center field catwalk. Verlander exited three batters later, following a walk to Ji-Man Choi, having thrown only 52 of his 84 pitches for strikes. The velocity was there on three days’ rest, but the command was not.
The only run for the Astros came in the top of the eighth inning, when catcher Robinson Chirinos hit a solo homer to right-center off Rays reliever Colin Poche. Emilio Pagan promptly entered and retired George Springer on a flyout to close out that frame before running into some trouble in the top of the ninth. Blake Snell, the sixth pitcher of the night for Tampa Bay, struck out Yordan Alvarez with runners at first and third before inducing a game-ending groundout from Yuli Gurriel.
Diego Castillo served as the Rays’ opener and rallied after a George Springer leadoff single in the top of the first inning to strike out Michael Brantley, Jose Altuve, and Alex Bregman in order. He also got the first two outs in the top of the second before giving way to Ryan Yarbrough, who gave way to Nick Anderson, who gave way to Poche. Snell needed only eight pitches to secure his two-out save, so he could be available behind Game 5 starter Tyler Glasnow on Thursday. We might also see Charlie Morton for an inning or two. Houston will turn back to Gerrit Cole, who racked up 15 strikeouts over 7 2/3 shoutout innings in a Game 2 victory on Saturday.
MLB’s lowest payroll team vs. the presumptive World Series favorite, for the right to take on the Yankees in the American League Championship Series, and it's all down to one game.
Clear out any previously-arranged Thursday night plans.
As an appetizer, these NLDS Game 5s will play out on Wednesday ...
Quick Hits: Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman suffered an apparent injury to his left (throwing) hand during the team’s ALDS clinching celebration on Monday night, but it’s considered to be minor and he will go through a full workout on Wednesday … Zack Britton said after ALDS Game 3 on Monday that his right ankle should be "fine” moving forward … Aaron Hicks (elbow) told the Associated Press that he feels ready to return to the Yankees for the American League Championship Series … Braves manager Brian Snitker said Tuesday that he's considering putting Adam Duvall into the lineup for Game 5 of the NLDS against the Cardinals … Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Will Smith will start at catcher in Game 5 of the NLDS on Wednesday versus the Nationals … Michael Wacha (shoulder) is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Wednesday in Atlanta and could be a consideration for the Cardinals’ NLCS roster if they advance … Dana LeVangie will not return as pitching coach for the Red Sox … Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that Buck Showalter is not a candidate for the Padres' managerial gig, despite Manny Machado’s push for the team to “at least take a look at” his former skipper in Baltimore … According to Patrick Mooney of The Athletic, the Cubs are hoping to interview Astros bench coach Joe Espada for their managerial opening … Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic reports that Giants' third base coach Ron Wotus will interview for the team's managerial vacancy on Tuesday.