Justin Verlander will try to finish the ALDS in Game 4

Astros playoff report presented by APG&E: ALDS Game 4 preview

Justin Verlander
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

It's not easy to win a playoff game on the road in any sport, and when the opposing home team is playing with their backs against the wall, allowing them to catch momentum can wreak havoc for at least one game. The Astros found this out on Monday when the Rays bludgeoned Zack Greinke and Houston's relievers in the 10-3 game that forced a Game 4.

With the Yankees punching their ticket on Monday night by sweeping the Twins, the Astros will look to join them by clinching the ALDS win on Tuesday. Here is a quick preview of the game:

Game Facts

When: Tuesday, 6:07 p.m Central.

Where: Tropicana Field - St. Petersburg, Florida.

TV: FS1.

Streaming: Fox Sports App.

Pitching matchup: Justin Verlander vs. Diego Castillo.

Series: HOU leads 2-1.

Series schedule

Date & Time (Central)LocationPitching matchup
Game 1Astros 6, Rays 2Minute Maid Park, HoustonVerlander (W) vs. Glasnow (L)
Game 2Astros 3, Rays 1Minute Maid Park, HoustonCole (W) vs. Snell (L)
Game 3Rays 10, Astros 3Tropicana Field, St. PetersburgGreinke (L) vs Morton (W)
Game 4Tuesday 10/8, 6:07 PMTropicana Field, St. PetersburgJustin Verlander vs. Diego Castillo
Game 5*Thursday 10/10, TBDMinute Maid Park, HoustonGerrit Cole+ vs. TBD

* If necessary.
+ Projected starter

Game Storylines

Verlander wants the ball to finish the series

While Houston carried Jose Urquidy on the ALDS roster as a possible fourth starter in the rotation, it appears that Justin Verlander has managed to win over A.J. Hinch to start Game 4 on short rest. You surely can't say no to Verlander if he says he's ready, and putting him on the mound in a potential series-clinching game, even on three-days rest, puts you in prime position to finish things off.

Still, It will be intriguing to see not only how sharp Verlander will be, but also for how long. A benefit to playing from behind with a significant deficit in Game 3 for the Astros is that they did not have to use their strongest bullpen arms in Ryan Pressly, Will Harris, or Roberto Osuna. If Verlander can get through five to six innings and turn the ball over to those guys with a lead, the Astros will have a great chance. However, if things go sideways and Game 4 is lost, then the Astros will be forced to use Gerrit Cole in Game 5, putting their rotation out of sync for the ALCS, should they make it. It shapes up to be a pivotal game for Verlander and his teammates.

Bullpen day for the Rays

While Houston will send their ace to the mound, the Rays will elect to put together a bullpen day to try and stave off elimination for one more game and force a decisive Game 5. Tampa Bay's bullpen is formidable, so it will not be an easy task for the Astros to power past them. That being said, a bullpen day exposes more arms to Houston's potent lineup, and it only takes one pitcher having a bad day for the Astros to take advantage and put up several runs.

To do so, they'll need their key guys in the top of the order like George Springer (0-for-13 this series) and Michael Brantley (2-for-12 this series) to break out of their slumps and back up Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman who have provided some of the biggest moments at the plate so far.

Be sure to check SportsMap after the final out for an in-depth recap of the game, and follow me on Twitter for updates and reactions throughout each playoff game: @ChrisCampise

The Astros playoff report is presented by APG&E.

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More changes are coming in MLB. Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images.

Ronald Acuña Jr. and Corbin Carroll just got a little more dangerous. Same for Bobby Witt Jr., Elly De La Cruz and the rest of baseball's fastest players.

Major League Baseball wants umpires to crack down on obstruction, and the commissioner's office outlined plans during a call with managers this week. MLB staff also will meet managers in person during spring training to go over enforcement.

The increased emphasis is only on the bases and not at home plate. The focus is on infielders who drop a knee or leg down in front of a bag while receiving a throw, acting as a deterrence for aggressive baserunning and creating an increased risk of injuries.

“I think with everything, they’re trying to make the game a little safer to avoid some unnecessary injuries," Phillies shortstop Trea Turner said Friday at the team's facility in Florida. “The intentions are always good. It comes down to how it affects the players and the games. I’m sure there will be plays where one team doesn’t like it or one team does.”

With more position players arriving at spring training every day, the topic likely will come up more and more as teams ramp up for the season.

“We'll touch on that. We'll show them some video of what’s good and what’s not,” Texas Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. “You know, it’s going to be a little adjustment.”

Making obstruction a point of emphasis fits in with an ongoing effort by MLB to create more action. Obstruction calls are not reviewable, which could lead to some disgruntled players and managers as enforcement is stepped up, but it also means it won't create long replay deliberations.

A package of rule changes last season — including pitch clocks, bigger bases and limits on defensive shifts and pickoff attempts — had a dramatic effect. There were 3,503 stolen bases in the regular season, up from 2,486 in 2022 and the most since 1987.

MLB changed a different baserunning rule this offseason, widening the runner’s lane approaching first base to include a portion of fair territory. MLB also shortened the pitch clock with runners on base by two seconds to 18 and further reducing mound visits in an effort to speed games.

“Last year, you know, a lot of our preparation was around like, especially just the unknown of the clock and making sure like we’re really buttoned up on that," New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "These guys are so used to it in so many ways that sometimes I even forget.”

Increased enforcement could lead to more action on the basepaths. But a significant element of MLB's motivation is injury prevention.

Top players have hurt hands or wrists on headfirst slides into bases blocked by a fielder. White Sox slugger Luis Robert Jr. sprained his left wrist when he slid into Jonathan Schoop's lower left leg on a steal attempt during an August 2022 game against Detroit.

“It’s been happening for a while. It’s been getting out of control," Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “I know some of the players complained about it the last two years.”

While acknowledging his reputation as a significant offender, Phillies second baseman Bryson Stott didn't sound too worried about his play.

“We like to fight for outs at second base,” he said. "It’s never on purpose, blocking the base. For me, or someone covering second to the shortstop side, it’s a natural move for your knee to go down to reach the ball. It’s never intentional. I guess we’ll figure out how to maneuver around that.”

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