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

Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

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 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.

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Could James Harden end up in Philly? Composite image by Brandon Strange

On Wednesday, the sports world inside Houston went ballistic after Daryl Morey signed a five-year contract with the Philadelphia 76ers to become their new President of Basketball Operations. After Morey signed with the 76ers, Tilman Fertitta and Rockets new GM Rafael Stone decided on the Houston Rockets next head coach, which is Stephen Silas. Could Morey and Fertitta be playing chess?

It was reported that the 76ers' office was in contact with Morey after his departure from the Rockets. When leaving the Rockets, Fertitta told Tim MacMahon of ESPN that Morey wanted to go to the Eastern Conference. Now that Morey is with the 76ers, he could possibly be looking to trade for James Harden. Bringing Harden to the 76ers could open a better pathway to the NBA Finals.

Stephen A. Smith believes Harden is the key piece to pair with Joel Embiid for a Finals appearance. Morey has pulled off countless trades for the Rockets' organization so his negotiation skills are not in question.

"I'm Daryl Morey, the first thing I'm trying to do is get [James] Harden to become a [Philadelphia] 76er," as Smith told co-host Max Kellerman on ESPN's First Take. "Even if it means trading Ben Simmons."

Although 76er fans would get excited about Harden coming to Philly, Stone and Fertitta shut the idea down. As MacMahon reported that it would be a hard no from the Rockets' front office. Honestly, it's a wise decision that the Rockets hold on to Harden, as he has three more years left on his contract. MacMahon explained more of the reasoning on why the Rockets are cashing in on Harden's prime on Adrian Wojnarowski's podcast.

"What I can say is right now the Rockets are 100 percent committed to cash in on [James] Harden's prime," as MacMahon told Woj on his podcast. "They consider him the best player in the league."

Keeping an eye on Fertitta and Morey's relationship is critical because of their past rapport. Fertitta did mention to MacMahon that they will keep in touch when it comes to strategizing towards the Finals. So it won't come as a surprise if a trade happens between the Rockets and 76ers at a later time.

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