The excitement was palpable on Monday, as the Tampa Bay Rays overcame their two-games to none deficit, handily defeating the Houston Astros, 10-3, in front of 32,251 raucous fans at Tropicana Field. The Rays now trail the Astros two-games to one in the best of five series, with game four scheduled for Tuesday.
The Astros, who had not trailed in the first two games, took the lead in the opening frame against Charlie Morton. After getting ahead of (and nearly striking out) Jose Altuve on a borderline pitch that was called ball three, Altuve homered to deep centerfield on the payoff pitch. It was Altuve’s second long ball of the series, and the fourth this season against Tampa Bay. And Morton continued to scuffle in the inning.
After Michael Brantly was called out for the second out of the frame, Alex Bregman walked, and Yordan Alvarez reached on a two-base throwing error by Yandy Diaz that skipped past Ji-Man Choi. However, the right-hander limited damage and got Yuli Gurriel to pop out to second on the sixth pitch of the at-bat, ending a 31-pitch labor-intensive inning.
From there, Morton tightened up his game and went on to scatter a base hit, a double, and a walk, yet nothing else. All told, Morton allowed one run on three hits and two walks, while striking out nine on 93 pitches (62 strikes, 67% strike rate).
Houston’s manager A.J. Hinch is all too familiar with this type of solid performance by the former Astro.
I’ve seen this out of Charlie. When you get him early, get some opportunities early, you have to maximize them if you can. Same thing he did in the Wild Card Game. He settled in nicely and got them through five innings.— A.J. Hinch
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay took an unrelinquishable lead in the bottom of the second against Zack Greinke, who still has never won a game at Tropicana Field (seven appearances, six starts). Avisail Garcia got things started with a one-out base hit to center. A batter later, he moved up 90 feet on a groundout. After Travis d’Arnaud was hit by a 1-1 pitch, Kevin Kiermaier laced a 2-1 changeup, that caught too much plate, into the right-center stands for a three-run homer, giving the Rays a two-run lead.
It was Tampa Bay’s first lead of the series and the first of four home runs in the ballgame.
Tampa Bay was able to extend the lead to three runs in the bottom of the third inning. With none on and two outs when Ji-Man Choi launched a solo shot to right, his first homer of the postseason.
Another inning another homer … Brandon Lowe unloaded on an opposite-field homer on the first pitch of the bottom of the fourth inning — his first-ever post-season home run, making it 5-1.
And that wasn’t all.
Willy Adames worked a two-out walk, chasing Greinke. Hector Rondon entered and allowed a single to Matt Duffy before Wade Miley, the third pitcher of the frame, gave up a two-run double to Austin Meadows, putting Tampa Bay up by six.
Tommy Pham followed with an RBI single to right for an 8-1 lead.
Houston was able to get back two runs in the sixth inning against Chaz Roe, collecting three hits while plating a pair of runs on a Gurriel single. Still, Roe got the next two batters while Brendan McKay got Aledmys Diaz to pop out ending the inning.
Unsatisfied with just a five-run lead in the bottom of the sixth, Adames made it a six-run game once again, hitting a home run to left-center off Miley.
It was the first time the Rays hit four homers at the Trop in a postseason game.
Tampa Bay tacked on one last run in the seventh inning. After Garcia reached on an Alex Bregman error, he went to third on a single by Lowe, then came home on a sacrifice fly by d’Arnaud.
All told, the Rays scored 10 runs on 12 hits with three by Adames. As a team, Tampa Bay’s hurlers punched out 13 Astros. It should be mentioned, Houston was the toughest team to strikeout in the league during the regular season.
The New What Next
Kevin Cash will mix-and-match on the mound on Tuesday, with Justin Verlander (1-0, 0.00 ERA in the postseason, 21-6, 2.58 ERA in the regular season) getting the ball for Houston.
Diego Castillo (5-8, 3.41 ERA) will open for the Rays. The right-hander tossed 1-2/3 scoreless innings against Houston in Game 2 of the ALDS on Saturday. In six opening turns on the mound this season, Castillo is 0-1 with a 6.14 ERA (4.85 FIP). He, however, did not allow a run in 10 of 12 September appearances (2 ER across 14-2/3 IP), nor has he given up a run in any of his playoff outings so far across 3-2/3 innings.
After Castillo, the bullpen will cover the balance of the game with several pitchers working 1-2 innings each.
Justin Verlander will get the start even though A.J. Hinch likely would have preferred to save the right-hander for the first game of the ALCS. Verlander will pitch on three days’ rest Tuesday after tossing seven scoreless innings in the first game of the ALDS on Friday, allowing just one hit and three walks while striking out eight on 100 pitches (67 strikes, 67% strike rate). Verlander has never pitched on three days rest, so things could get interesting if he is not as sharp as usual. He is 10-4 with a 3.17 ERA in 20 career regular starts against Tampa Bay, and 6-3 with a 2.87 ERA in 10 starts at the Trop. Key Matchups: Travis d’Arnaud (1-2), Yandy Diaz (2-4, 2B, BB), Matt Duffy (4-8), Tommy Pham (3-6, 2 2B), Joey Wendle (3-8, 2B, RBI)
You can read more about the series in our preview, while the starting lineup and Noteworthiness are below.
Rays ALDS Game 4 Starting Lineup
- Meadows LF
- Pham DH
- Choi 1B
- Garcia RF
- Lowe 2B
- d’Arnaud C
- Wendle 3B
- Kiermaier CF
- Adames SS
— A brief moment of pause for everyone commenting on the Rays attendance including Bob Costas, who allegedly decided to broach the subject on the air this afternoon. People who attend baseball games are consumers that purchase some sort of product or service. And as with any other product, consumers spend their hard-earned dollars on things they value regardless of the parameters surrounding product. The fact that there were over 30,000 fans in attendance on a weekday proves that fans can make it out to the Trop given the wherewithal to do so. The fans in attendance on Monday likely had to sacrifice more to attend the 1:10 p.m. thanks to adult responsibilities like work.
Remind your friends and family of this whenever they feel the need to bring up the subject of attendance.
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Remember: consumers spend money on things they value. The tickets were twice (if not more) their typical price, yet the stadium is full. The bridge didn’t shrink and Stu’s self-fulfilling prophecy didn’t miraculously fill the stadium. “Weird how things work,” huh? #RaysUp #ALDS
— Well, this is pretty damn cool!