The unbreakable will of the Tampa Bay Rays met its match in the unstoppable force that is Gerrit Cole and the Houston Astros. While the Rays had made a valiant effort all postseason, they simply could not best the Astros in game five of the ALDS.
This was it, the ultimate in must-win situations. One way or another one team was done for the season on Thursday night as game five of the ALDS began in Houston. In one corner, the Tampa Bay Rays, a scrappy young team who had spent a whole season proving themselves worthy of the moment, but being overlooked by baseball for the most part. And in the other corner, the Houston Astros, gunning for their third trip to the ALCS in three years.
It was called a David and Goliath match by some, but a the end of the day, it was Goliath who triumphed.
With likely Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole getting the nod to start, the Rays knew what needed to be done: score early, keep the Astros bats silent, and just hope to heck they could maintain an early minor lead.
None of that happened in game five.
Rays starter Tyler Glasnow, who made a short but positive appearance in game one, came into the game for the Rays at the bottom of the first inning and proceeded to give up four runs in very little time. He couldn’t seem to find a pitch to make them chase, and George Springer, Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, and Alex Bregman all tagged home plate before the inning was over.
It might not have been the end of the world, except Rays batters could not for the life of them seem to make anything work against Cole, who was as dialed in as he was during his game two start. The lone exception was surprise lineup addition Eric Sogard, who got in a solo home run to lead off the second inning.
That home run would be the only time the Rays scored all night.
As they battled against Cole right through the eighth inning, they continued to cycle through their pitchers, hoping they could at least stop the bleeding.
Glasnow went 2 2/3 and then gave way to Blake Snell. Snell worked for 1 1/3, then was replaced by Roe, and from their it was an endless parade of familiar faces, and Kevin Cash made so many pitching changes the crowd at Minute Maid Park started looking visibly irritated. Roe became Yarbrough who was removed for Anderson, who was the last pitcher of the night to last more than a whole inning. Diego Castillo didn’t even last double-digit pitches. Castillo gave way to Poche, who then gave way to Pagan.
Unfortunately Pagan had run out of steam for the series and gave up two back to back solo home runs to Brantley and Altuve. With the Astros now leading 6-1, the writing appeared to be on the wall.
Brendan McKay was the last Rays pitcher of the night, and kept the damage from spreading, then Roberto Osuna replaced Cole for the ninth and had a 1-2-3 inning to polish off the Rays last hopes of the season.
While it was not an ideal conclusion for Rays fans, it was wonderful to see them put on such a tremendous effort against some of the best teams of 2019 in the postseason. They made it right to the doorstep of the ALCS, and fans should believe this is just the beginning of what they’re capable of.