We’ve just come to expect it. Justin Verlander winning in the playoffs. Bank it.
Another shutdown performance by the probable* Cy Young winner for 2019. Seven innings, no runs, one hit, eight strikeouts. He had some command problems, especially at the beginning of the game, offering up three walks, but as is his wont, JV just got stronger as the game continued. He struck out the last three batters he faced.
AJ Hinch took him out at 100 pitches. It’s OK, save him for later.
Verlander’s mound opponent, Tyler Glasnow, was pretty dominant himself. He held the relentless Astros lineup to four hits and no runs for 4.1 innings...until Altuve.
This hit chased Glasnow, bringing in Brendan McKay. McKay promptly allowed a single to Michael Brantley, a double off the left field wall to Alex Bregman, but then he got out two by striking out Yordan Alvarez.
When Yuli Gurriel hit a soft pop-up to right field, it appeared McKay had extinguished the fire and kept his team withing striking distance. But the second baseman and right fielder had trouble deciding who should take the grab, and the ball ended up bouncing off the glove of Brandon Lowe, scoring two runs and giving Verlander an insurmountable 4-0 lead.
The Astros would add two more runs in the seventh. With two outs MVP Alex Bregman walked. He smartly stole second base, noting that the pitcher was not holding him on. Yordan Alvarez then broke an 0-15 slump with an RBI double. The Cuban connection would finish the scoring when Yuli Gurriel plated Alvarez with a ground rule double.
Fox commentator AJ Pierzinski, as he did in the 2017 ALDS against the Red Sox, posited that the visiting team, while behind, might have the momentum, after the Rays managed two runs on Ryan Pressly with two outs in the eighth. So much for momentum; Will Harris stopped it in its tracks, getting the third out on a Ji-Man Choi ground out to Bregman.
In the ninth inning Roberto Osuna made the Rays wish that Verlander was back on the mound, striking out the last two Rays hitters, locking down the Astros first playoff victory in 2019.
Ten to go.
Tomorrow’s game is at 8:07 CDT.
Poor Rays. Gerrit Cole* takes on Blake Snell
Box Score and videos HERE