Justin Verlander struggles on short rest as Houston's offense struggles
Astros playoff report presented by APG&E: Astros lose ALDS Game 4 against the Rays to force a Game 5
After dropping Game 3 to the Rays to force a Game 4, the Astros trusted their ace, Justin Verlander, with the ball on short rest to try and shut the door on Tampa Bay and advance to the ALCS to face the Yankees. Things would not go as planned, with the Rays once again extending the series by beating Houston 4-1 to send the series to a decisive Game 5 in Houston to decide the series. Here is a recap of Tuesday's Game 4:
Final Score: Rays 4, Astros 1.
Series: tied 2-2.
Winning Pitcher: Ryan Yarbrough.
Losing Pitcher: Justin Verlander.
Verlander just didn't have it
Justin Verlander was not himself on Tuesday night. Whether it be the result of short rest or merely a bad day on the mound, he would get bumped around by the Rays in the early stages of ALDS Game 4. Most of the damage came in the bottom of the very first inning, where Verlander would watch a changeup get turned around for a solo home run to put Tampa Bay ahead 1-0.
The start @RaysBaseball was hoping for. #ALDSpic.twitter.com/vfxm2xfM1Z
— MLB (@MLB) October 8, 2019
The Rays would go on to score two more runs that inning as Verlander would be uncharacteristically out of command, finishing a 32-pitch first inning with a 3-0 deficit. He would return and continue to complete three and two-thirds innings, but not before allowing another solo homer, which extended Tampa Bay's lead to 4-0. Although he had no run support behind him, which was a problem in itself, Verlander would have a disappointing and forgettable day on the mound. His final line: 3.2 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 2 HR.
Houston can't break the Tropicana Field curse
No matter what Verlander did or didn't do, his offense did him no favors. Jose Altuve did his part with a leadoff single in the top of the fourth to try and get a spark on offense. Yordan Alvarez followed with a one-out double to the center-field wall, nearly scoring Altuve, but two perfect throws had him out at the plate, keeping Houston off the board.
They would continue to be shutout through most of the game; hitting into double plays and bad luck along the way to extend their struggles at Tropicana Field. Robinson Chirinos would finally get the Astros on the board with a two-out solo home run in the top of the eighth, cutting the lead to three runs at 4-1. That's as close as they would come in the loss.
Strong showing for the bullpen
As far as Houston's bullpen, they performed well starting with Josh James, who would finish the fourth for Verlander by getting the final out of that frame. Then, the Astros turned to Jose Urquidy to try and eat up some innings and keep the game a four-run deficit. He would provide one and two-thirds innings, getting two outs into the bottom of the sixth before Houston turned to Ryan Pressly to get the final out of that inning.
Joe Smith took over in the bottom of the seventh, getting one of the best innings on the mound for Houston in the game with a five-pitch 1-2-3 inning. Will Smith was next, and he would work around a couple of hits in the bottom of the eighth to send the game to the ninth. Houston would come up empty in the top of the ninth, despite getting runners on the corners with one out, extending the series one last game.
Up Next: The series will come to its ultimate conclusion with Game 5 on Thursday night in Houston at Minute Maid Park. The game should get underway at 6:07 PM Central and will be the final game of the divisional round of the playoffs. Gerrit Cole will be on the mound for Houston looking to replicate the success he had in a great Game 2, while the Rays have not yet announced their starter, though they will likely use several pitchers, including Tyler Glasnow who started Game 1 for Tampa Bay.
The Astros playoff report is presented by APG&E.