Rays News

The Tampa Bay Rays will have to flip the script to advance

By Austin Reimann
HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 04: Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros walks to warm up prior to game one of the American League Division Series between the Houston Astros and the Tampa Bay Rays at Minute Maid Park on October 04, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 04: Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros walks to warm up prior to game one of the American League Division Series between the Houston Astros and the Tampa Bay Rays at Minute Maid Park on October 04, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /
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Astros manager A.J. Hinch announced after Monday’s loss that Justin Verlander would start Game 4 of the ALDS on only three days rest. If the Tampa Bay Rays plan on advancing, they will need to flip the script against the Astro aces…

After starting and winning Game 1 of the ALDS against the Tampa Bay Rays last Friday, Justin Verlander will take the ball in Game 4 relying on just three days of rest to try and send the Houston Astros to the ALCS.

A.J. Hinch’s decision to start Justin Verlander marks just the second time in 478 career regular and postseason starts that the Astros ace will take the mound on just three days of rest. His only prior start on such little rest came in the 2011 ALDS where he started Game 3 after starting Game 1 and only throwing one inning in a rain shortened affair.

With Verlander starting Game 4, the path is clear for Gerrit Cole to start a potential Game 5 in Houston on four days of rest. Both Verlander and Cole dominated the Rays bats in Games 1 and 2 of this ALDS and if the Rays plan on advancing to the ALCS, they will have to flip the script written earlier this series in Houston.

In Game 1, Verlander tossed seven shutout innings striking out eight while only surrendering one hit. Kevin Cash, putting it simply, said “We got Verlander’d.”

Verlander was indeed dominant in Game 1, but Gerrit Cole was otherworldly in Game 2. Across 7.2 IP, Cole shut down the Rays lineup striking out fifteen while only walking one. The Rays only managed four hits off of the potential 2019 Cy Young Award winner, and failed to score any runs.

Combined, the two front runners for the 2019 Cy Young Award struck out 22 batters over 14.2 IP, surrounding only 5 hits and no runs.

To secure a Game 5 back in Houston, the Rays’ key to success against Verlander might be to simply wait him out. On only three days of rest, Verlander, who threw 100 pitches on Friday, may be less sharp and overpowering than usual. If this is the case, look for the Rays to be aggressive early in counts in an effort to take advantage of mistake pitches.

If he does appear to be as sharp as he was on Friday, look for the Rays to battle and work deep counts as Verlander will be on a shorter leash. Throughout the series, the Rays have been able to score runs against the Houston bullpen and the quicker they can chase Verlander, the better.

We don’t know how Verlander will do on short rest. But, we do know that if the Rays advance to the ALCS, they will have to go through the gauntlet that is Verlander and Cole.

And, to do that they will have to flip the script. They will have to string together hits and scratch across runs against two of the game’s premier pitchers. It won’t be easy, but what other choice do they have?

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