The Tampa Bay Rays are not done yet in the American League Divisional Series as the Rays chased the Houston ace Justin Verlander early in beating the Astros 4-1 Tuesday night to even the ALDS at two games apiece. The series shifts back to Houston for a deciding Game 5 on Thursday night with the winner playing the New York Yankees in the ALCS beginning Saturday.
Rays outfielder Tommy Pham homered for the second time this postseason and reliever Ryan Yarbrough combined with five other pitchers on a six-hitter for Tampa Bay. Defending Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell came out of the bullpen for his first career relief appearance, holding off Houston in the ninth inning to earn the save.
Verlander, starting on short rest after dominating the wild-card Rays in Game 1, looked uncomfortable on the mound at Tropicana Field and was pulled in the fourth after giving up four runs. Tampa Bay shortstop Willy Adames homered led off the fourth to make it 4-0 as Verlander, the eight-time All-Star, didn't make it through the inning.
Tampa Bay helped themselves by playing stellar defense, especially with the Astros threatening to cut into their three-run deficit in the fourth inning. With Jose Altuve on first base, Yordan Alvarez hit a long double that short-hopped the center field wall. Two-time Gold Glove winner Kevin Kiermaier quickly grabbed the ball and fired to his cutoff man, Adames. He turned and executed a perfect relay home just in time to nail Altuve trying to score.
Avisail Garcia had four hits for Tampa Bay, and Pham added three. Rays opener Diego Castillo struck out the first three batters and went 1 2/3 innings. He was followed by Yarbrough, who worked two scoreless innings to get the win. Nick Anderson handed off to Colin Poche, who gave up an eighth-inning homer to Robinson Chirinos.
Emilio Pagan and Snell finished up for the Rays, who have rebounded from losing the first two games of the series on the road to Verlander and Houston's other main headliner, Cole.
The series now moves to Houston and Astros star Gerrit Cole is scheduled to pitch for the heavily favored AL West champs, who led the majors with 107 wins this season and have one more chance to close out the feisty Rays. Tyler Glasnow is expected to start for Tampa Bay.
Coverage begins on 95.3 WDAE & AM 620 at 6pm on Thursday night.
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