1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Rays

Tampa Bay Rays falter in ALDS opening loss to Astros

Astros 6, Rays 2: A homer by Altuve, a rookie in a tough spot, a defensive mistake on a pop-up all turn into a mess.
Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Willy Adames (1) bites his helmet after hitting a pop fly in the second inning against the Houston Astros in Game 1 of the American League Division Series Friday, Oct. 4, 2019 in Houston. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published Oct. 4

HOUSTON – The first game of the AL Division Series didn’t go very well for the Rays.

Their starter, Tyler Glasnow, gave up a two-run homer to Jose Altuve, one of the Astros hitters most likely to do damage. Their manager, Kevin Cash, put rookie reliever Brendan McKay into a tough spot that got worse. Their second baseman, Brandon Lowe, misplayed an inning-ending pop-up to shallow rightfield into a two-run error, though their rightfielder, Austin Meadows, deserves some of the blame. Their hitters managed only a single in seven innings against Astros ace Justin Verlander.

And, as you could probably guess by now, they lost, 6-2.

The good news is that this is a best-of-five series, and they have a chance on Saturday night to get even,

Further, if you want to latch onto something, the Rays lost the first game of the season to Verlander and the Astros, then came back and won the next three.

The first four innings Friday were pretty much a classic pitcher’s duel between Rays playoff first-timer Glasnow and Astros veteran ace Verlander.

Unfortunately for the Rays, Glasnow cracked first.

He started the fifth badly, with a four-pitch walk to No. 9 hitter Josh Reddick. As Brendan McKay and Nick Anderson warmed, Glasnow came back to strike out George Springer on three pitches, the last his 73rd of the afternoon.

Manager Kevin Cash left him to face the always dangerous Jose Altuve, and that didn’t work out. Glasnow came with three fastballs. Altuve fouled off the first, watched the second and then jumped on the third, which was at the top of the zone, and drove it over the leftfield wall for a 2-0 lead.

Cash then came to get Glasnow, and made a decision that wasn’t unexpected but still somewhat surprising, summoning rookie lefty Brendan McKay, who was added to the roster to work in the unfamiliar role of situational reliever.

The situation turned out to be a mess.

McKay allowed a single to lefty Michael Brantley. With another rookie, lefty swinger Yordan Alvarez, due up third Cash had McKay pitch to righty Alex Bregman, the Astros quite-worthy MVP candidate.

McKay got behind 2-0 then got back to 2-2, but when he came with a fifth straight fastball Bregman was ready and lashed it high off the leftfield wall. Centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier’s hustle in retrieving the ball as it caromed away from Tommy Pham kept the Astros from scoring, but not for long as Chaz Roe took over on the mound.

Yuli Gurriel blooped a ball to shallow rightfield that should have ended the inning but the Rays played into two runs.

Second baseman Brandon Lowe gave chase, and the ball glanced off his glove allowing both runs to score and the lead to grow to 4-0. But some blame has to go to rightfielder Austin Meadows, who seemingly should have called off Lowe and made the catch.

The circumstances were slightly different, but it was somewhat reminiscent of a momentum changing play in the opening game of the 2013 ALDS at Boston, when Rays centerfielder Desmond Jennings and rookie rightfielder Wil Myers combined to let a ball drop.

It got worse from there for the Rays.

Oliver Drake got two outs to start the seventh, but a two-out walk to Bregman led to more trouble. Bregman stole second, then Alvarez laced a ball through the open side of the infield to make it 5-0. Meadows’ bad day in the field continued as he came up short on a sliding attempt to catch Gurriel’s fly ball down the rightfield line and Alvarez scored to make it 6-0.

The Rays knew facing Verlander would be a challenge, and it certainly started out that way, as they didn’t get a hit until Brandon Lowe led off the fifth with a single, and none others through his seven innings. Similarly frustrating, Verlander walked three and they failed to take advantage, Tommy Pham twice hitting into double plays.

But they got something going in the eighth off reliever Ryan Pressly, most of it with two outs. Joey Wendle singled with one out then moved to second on a ground out. Eric Sogard, added to the roster after missing most of the last three weeks with a foot bruise, delivered a clutch pinch-hit, scoring Wendle. Meadows followed with a double to deep center that made it 6-2.

An infield single by Pham created the chance for more, but the Astros brought in Will Harris, and he got Ji-Man Choi to ground out.

The series continues on Saturday night, when the Rays send lefty Blake Snell to the mound against Houston 20-game winner Gerrit Cole, who led the majors with 326 strikeouts and the AL with a 2.50 ERA

Contact Marc Topkin at Follow @TBTimes_Rays.


  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston talks to reporters after an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019. The Saints won 31-24. (AP Photo/Butch Dill) BUTCH DILL  |  AP
    Sports Day Tampa Bay: What’s next for the Bucs, Astros-National World Series preview, the Lightning’s short-circuit start
  2. Davey Martinez gained valuable experience as a coach behind Joe Maddon in Tampa Bay. But when Maddon exited, the Rays bypassed him for a "new voice," Kevin Cash. Tampa Bay Times
    After failing to land a half-dozen manager jobs, including with the Rays, Martinez and Nats ended up a good match.
  3. Jose Altuve prepares to be mobbed by his teammates at home plate as Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman leaves the field after giving up a walkoff two-run homer to the Astros second baseman in the ninth inning to win Game 6 of the AL Championship Series 6-4 on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. The Astros win the series 4-2 and advance to the World Series to play the Washington Nationals. MATT SLOCUM  |  AP
    New York ties the ALCS Game 6 in the top of the ninth with a two-run HR before the diminutive second baseman wins it with a blast off Aroldis Chapman, putting Houston in the World Series.
  4. In 1968, slugger Frank Howard, known as the "Washington Monument," proved to be one of the few bright spots for the Washington Senators. AP
    The Nationals’ improbable postseason run rekindles memories of the woeful Washington Senators
  5. Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash, on left, along with Erik Neander, center, senior vice president of baseball operations and general manager, and Chaim Bloom, senior vice president of baseball operations, address the media during a press conference at Tropicana Field Friday, Oct. 11, 2019 in St. Petersburg. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Rays Tales: Research now, action to come as Rays get caught up after playoff run. Plus, TV rating info and rumblings.
  6. The Astros’ George Springer signals foul, but the delirious crowd in the rightfield stands at Yankee Stadium knows better as the ball hit by Aaron Hicks caroms off the foul pole for a three-run homer in the first inning of Game 5 of the AL Championship Series on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. FRANK FRANKLIN II  |  AP
    After falling behind 1-0 in the top of the first, New York slugs two home runs in the bottom half of the inning and cuts the series lead to 3-2. Game 6 is tonight in Houston.
  7. An emotional CC Sabathia is helped off the field during the eighth inning in Game 4 of the AL Championship Series against the Astros on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019. The 39-year-old left-hander injures his pitching shoulder and is taken off the Yankees' postseason roster, thus ending his 19-year major-league career. MATT SLOCUM  |  AP
    The 39-year-old left-hander is taken off New York’s playoff roster, thus ending his 19-year big-league career.
  8. Tampa Bay Lightning center Alex Killorn (17) and right wing Luke Witkowski (28) celebrate with goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) after the Lightning defeated the Boston Bruins 4-3 in a shootout in an NHL hockey game Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) ELISE AMENDOLA  |  AP
    Sports Day Tampa Bay: There was bad news Thursday in the Tampa Bay penalty box, for USF’s Blake Barnett, for the Yankees and the NFL’s reigning MVP.
  9. Astros manager A.J. Hinch answers questions during a news conference before Game 4 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019. FRANK FRANKLIN II  |  AP
    A.J. Finch calls the accusations, including one of his team signaling by whistling, a “joke.”
  10. Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez raises the NLCS trophy after Game 4 of the baseball National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, in Washington. The Nationals won 7-4 to win the series 4-0. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) JEFF ROBERSON  |  AP
    They’re easy to like, familiar-looking and also connected to Montreal. Most importantly, they’re not the Astros or Yankees.