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.

Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

In what was expected to be a fierce pitcher's duel, Game 1 of the 2019 World Series saw some big offensive moments in the early innings as the Nationals erased an early 2-0 deficit with five unanswered runs to take a 5-2 lead against Gerrit Cole. They would hold on to that lead and take Game 1 against the Astros, 5-4. Washington's star of the night was Juan Soto, who went 3-for-4 with three RBIs, including a solo home run to fuel the Nationals to a 1-0 series lead. Here is a recap of the game:

Final Score: Nationals 5, Astros 4.

Series: Nationals lead 1-0.

Winning Pitcher: Max Scherzer.

Losing Pitcher: Gerrit Cole.

Astros take an early lead

Although the Nationals would record the first hit of the night on a leadoff single in the top of the inning, it would be the Astros who would get the first runs of the night in the bottom of the first inning. George Springer worked a leadoff walk to start the frame, followed by Jose Altuve, who drilled a single to put two on base. Both would advance a base after a wild pitch to move Springer to third, followed by a steal by Altuve, then Yuli Gurriel drove them in on a two-RBI double off the left-center field wall to give Houston the quick 2-0 lead.

The Nationals immediately cut the lead in half in the top of the second, getting a solo home run by Ryan Zimmerman off of Gerrit Cole to straightaway center-field to make it a 2-1 game. The Astros threatened to extend their lead in the bottom of the third after getting runners on second and third with two outs on a bloop single that fell in by Gurriel, but a strikeout by Carlos Correa would end the inning.

Nationals roar back with five unanswered runs

The Nationals were able to fully erase the 2-0 deficit in the top of the fourth. It came on the second solo home run allowed by Gerrit Cole on the night, this one a leadoff homer to Juan Soto to tie the game. Yordan Alvarez recorded a much-needed hit considering his playoff slump to lead off the bottom of the fourth and should have moved to second after a missed catcher's interference against Josh Reddick instead resulted in Reddick recording the second out of the inning.

George Springer worked a walk next as Houston continued to work Max Scherzer into lengthy at-bats, but both runners would be left stranded as Scherzer got out of another jam. Cole encountered jam of his own in the top of the fifth, issuing his first walk to start the inning followed by a single to put two runners on. After getting an out, Cole would allow an RBI-single as Washington took their first lead at 3-2. With two outs in the inning, Juan Soto would strike again, this time a two-RBI double to extend the Nationals' lead to 5-2 before the inning was over.

Washington goes to their bullpen in the sixth while Cole finishes seven

After a scoreless top of the sixth by Cole, the Nationals moved to another pitcher, bringing in Patrick Corbin to try and hold on to Washington's lead. Corbin was as a potential Game 3 starter, but with the Nationals bullpen having notable struggles, they opted instead to go to his strong arm to try and hold on to get a Game 1 road win, potentially keeping him available for a Game 4 start. He would record a scoreless frame, erasing a one-out single by Yordan Alvarez to keep it a 5-2 deficit for Houston heading to the seventh.

Gerrit Cole would throw one more inning before he was done for the night, getting a 1-2-3 top of the seventh. His final line was not what many expected would it would be, recording his worst start of the postseason: 7.0 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 2 HR.

Nationals hold on for Game 1 win

Tanner Rainey was the next reliever for the Nationals, but George Springer welcomed him with a solo home run to lead off the bottom of the seventh to trim the lead to 5-3. Rainey would then allow back-to-back one-out walks, prompting the move to another reliever for Washington. It would be Daniel Hudson who would come in and get the second out before an infield single loaded the bases for Yordan Alvarez, who would strikeout to end the threat.

First out of Houston's bullpen was Will Harris in the top of the eighth, and he would erase a one-out single by Soto to keep it a two-run game. Kyle Tucker led off the bottom of the eighth with a pinch-hit single against Hudson, who remained in the game for Washington. Tucker would move to second by tagging on a long flyout, then score on an RBI-double by Springer that was mere feet from being a game-tying home run, but instead left the tying run on second base with one out and the score now 5-4. After a flyout by Altuve, the Nationals moved to Sean Doolittle to face Michael Brantley, and Doolittle would win that battle to keep it a one-run game.

Joe Smith would come in for the top of the ninth to try and keep it a one-run game and give Houston a chance to tie or walk it off in the bottom half of the inning. Smith did his job, keeping the Nationals off the board. Doolittle would face the middle of Houston's order in the bottom of the ninth and retired the Astros in order to finish off Houston's Game 1 loss.

Up Next: Game 2 of the 2019 World Series will start at 7:07 PM Central on Wednesday from Minute Maid Park in Houston. It offers another terrific pitching matchup on paper with Justin Verlander for the Astros going up against Stephen Strasburg for the Nationals.

The Astros playoff report is presented by APG&E.

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