Following the conclusion of a thrilling ALDS Game Three victory, the Tampa Bay Rays announced they would do what they were best known for and use an Opener in Game Four, with Diego Castillo announced to square off against Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander.
In the MLB postseason, every game is a must-win game, and no one knows that better than Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash. Cash must have been watching ALDS Game Three with keen interest. Aside from it being the Rays’ last chance to continue on in the postseason, he also knew he had to be judicious about his bullpen use, as the Rays would need to rest Tyler Glasnow and Blake Snell if the series stretched to a Game Five.
And so the question became: who would the Rays start in Game Four?
The answer came shortly after the conclusion of Monday’s Rays victory. The Houston Astros would start their ace Justin Verlander, and the Rays would start Diego Castillo as a classic Opener.
There is plenty of good news here for Rays fans. The team was able to avoid using too much of their bullpen on Monday, meaning Castillo, Nick Anderson, Emilio Pagan, and Ryan Yarbrough are all well-rested ahead of Tuesday’s game. Look for Yarbrough to likely take a lengthy middle innings role in tomorrow’s game following one or two innings work from Castillo.
Castillo currently has a 0.00 ERA in the postseason in two games of use, seeing 3.2 innings of work between the Wild Card and the ALDS. His regular season ERA was 3.41 with a slightly elevated 3.72 FIP and a 1.238 WHIP.
The Rays have plenty of depth to their bullpen to pull of an all-reliever day on Tuesday, and it’s certainly something they’ve done with great success all season. Beyond Castillo, Yarbrough, Anderson, and Pagan, they could also call on Yonny Chirinos who could pull off some longer innings if need be. They also have the full contingent of relievers used on Monday, in Oliver Drake, Chaz Roe, Brendan McKay, and Colin Poche. There’s truly a man for every situation, and Cash should revel in knowing that the LOOGY can still be used as need for this postseason.
As for Verlander, he was sensational in Friday’s game one win for the Astros, going seven innings and giving up only a single hit and three walks, but no runs. He’s also no stranger to the postseason, with twelve game appearances in eight past ALDS series, and a 2.14 ERA over those games. You want scary? He has a 0.953 WHIP over his twelve ALDS games. The Rays are not going to have an easy time of it tomorrow.
They do, however, have their best well-rested and ready, and could theoretically call on Blake Snell out of the bullpen tomorrow if need be, allowing Tyler Glasnow to pitch game five on normal rest.
Some might call the Rays crazy for going to a bullpen game in a must-win game four, but for the team that pioneered the Opener and still does bullpenning better than anyone, it seems like a risk worth taking.