Rays get to Verlander
Tommy Pham hit Justin Verlander’s eighth pitch for a home run to ignite a three-run first inning, and six Tampa Bay pitchers combined on a six-hitter Tuesday as the Rays forced a deciding Game 5 in the American League Division Series with a 4-1 win over the Houston Astros in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Pham’s homer to leftcentre gave the uprising momentum, after which a walk to Ji-man Choi and single by Avisail Garcia set up an RBI single by Travis d’arnaud and a run-scoring double by Joey Wendle for a 3-0 lead.
After Rays opener Diego Castillo was pulled following 1 2/3 scoreless innings, having allowed one hit and one walk, the Astros threatened to close the gap in the fourth against Ryan Yarbrough. Jose Altuve singled and Yordan Alvarez bombed a double to centre field. However, Altuve was thrown out at the plate.
Alvarez reached third on a wild pitch with two outs, but Tampa Bay’s third pitcher, Nick Anderson, got Yuli Gurriel on a comebacker to keep the score at 3-0.
Willy Adames made it 4-0 with a leadoff home run in the bottom of the fourth off Verlander, who faced three more hitters before getting pulled after struggling through 84 pitches. He was pitching on three days’ rest for the first time this season.
The veteran was charged with four runs on seven hits in 3 2/3 innings.
The Astros finally got on the board in the eighth when Robinson Chirinos hit a twoout, solo home run off Colin Poche to close the gap to 4-1.
The Rays brought in closer Emilio Pagan at that point, and then Blake Snell with one out and two aboard in the ninth.
Snell, the 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner who was making his first career relief appearance, retired Alvarez on a strikeout and Gurriel on a grounder to earn the save.
Tampa Bay shortstop Willy Adames (left) and centre fielder Kevin Kiermaier celebrate their team’s win over the Houston Astros last night at Tropicana Field.