Turns out he’s human after all. Justin Verlander was tagged for three runs in the first inning of Game 4 of the ALDS — including this leadoff home run from Tommy Pham — and his Houston Astros dropped a 4-1 decision to the Tampa Bay Rays, forcing a winner-take-all Game 5 between the two clubs later this week.
Verlander, who was starting on short rest, only made it through 3 2⁄3 innings, allowing four runs on seven hits. The Rays kept the pressure on him and the rest of the Astros pitching staff all game long, totaling 13 hits. They have now out-scored (17-13) and out-hit (36-32) Houston through the first four games of the series.
While Houston is still in great shape for Game 5 — they are at home, and Gerrit Cole will take the mound — there will still be some second guessing after this one. FanGraphs’ Craig Edwards openly wondered if starting Verlander on short rest was a good idea before Tuesday’s tilt, and Houston’s absent offense might deserve even more of the blame. The lineup adjustments Astros manager A.J. Hinch made before Game 4 did not work, and one wonders if those woes will continue against Tampa’s all-hands-on-deck bullpen in Game 5.
But that’s for everyone else to worry about. Most relevant to us? There’s baseball on Thursday.
Speaking of Game 5...
We get two of them on Wednesday! The Braves and Cardinals will kick off the festivities at 5:02 p.m. ET, capping off what has been one of the most entertaining LDS series in recent memory. Eno Sarris of The Athletic looked at a few of the most important pitches of Game 4, while our friends at Talking Chop aren’t sure if Braves star Freddie Freeman is fully healthy.
But wait, there’s more! The Nationals will try to avoid yet another Game 5 heartbreak in Los Angeles, where the 105-win Dodgers await. Max Scherzer might not pitch after his arm was “hanging” after a heroic Game 4 effort, but low-key October ace Stephen Strasburg will. The Dodgers, weirdly, almost feel like underdogs, if you believe those Walker Buehler storylines.
Around the horn
Baseball Prospectus uses math to show that things were very unequal in the American League this year. Beau Burrows is hoping to shake off all those pesky injuries in 2020. There are a lot of good shortstops in baseball right now, for fantasy purposes or otherwise. Tigers prospect Anthony Castro was named to the Arizona Fall League All-Star team. Which Tigers prospects are ready to break out?