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Kevin Cash: Rays got ‘Verlandered’

Rays Journal: Astros’ Justin Verlander enhanced his reputation as a big-game pitcher with another dominant performance.
Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) delivers a pitch in the third inning against the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 1 of the American League Division Series Friday, Oct. 4, 2019 in Houston.
Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) delivers a pitch in the third inning against the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 1 of the American League Division Series Friday, Oct. 4, 2019 in Houston. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Oct. 5, 2019

HOUSTON — There is no shame in getting shut down by Justin Verlander in the postseason. There’s just no joy in it, either.

The Astros ace threw seven innings of one-hit, shutout baseball against the Rays in Game 1 of the American League Division Series to tie Hall of Famer Tom Glavine for third on the all-time postseason victories list at 14. Only Andy Pettitte (19) and John Smoltz (15) have more.

The performance prompted Rays manager Kevin Cash to turn the pitcher’s name into a verb

“We got Verlandered,’’ Cash said.

Verlander’s response?

"I guess it’s a pretty great compliment.’’

Verlander, who could win his second Cy Young Award next month, should be used to the compliments by now. He has won more division series games than any pitcher in history, running his record to an immaculate 8-0 in 11 starts.

“He was locating all of his pitches, he was mixing it up really well keeping us all off-balance,’’ said Rays catcher Travis d’Arnaud. “He did a tremendous job.’’

After giving up a leadoff single to Brandon Lowe in the fifth, Verlander seemed to turn it up a notch. He struck out six of the next nine batters.

“He’s got an incredible instinct for the moment,’’ said Houston manager A.J. Hinch. “He leaves some gas in his tank at the end of outings.’’

Topkin’s takeways

* As if the Rays don’t have to worry about with the Astros dominant starting pitching and power-packed lineup, they ran a little wild Friday as well, stealing three bases. Cash absolved d’Arnaud of blame.

* Rookie Brendan McKay was put in a tough spot for his third relief outing, and first of significant leverage. He allowed hits to the first two Astros, but then got a huge strikeout of Yordan Alvarez and put Chaz Roe in position to get them out of the inning.

* There has been a mantra around the Rays for much of the season about how resilient they are, how they don’t let tough losses linger and how they bounce back and play better. Well, this is now certainly a situation where they need to show it.

Roster shuffling

The Rays changed three spots on the 25-man roster from Wednesday’s wild-card game, adding McKay and Yonny Chirinos to the bullpen and veteran infielder Eric Sogard to the bench.

Sogard’s addition was health-related as he proved in Thursday’s workout he had recovered enough from the bruised foot that sidelined him much of September, and he showed the layoff didn’t hurt with a pinch-hit RBI single in the eighth.

The other two were strategic as the Rays went back to a 12-man pitching staff, wanting McKay to join Colin Poche and Ryan Yarbrough as situational lefty relievers (and using him in a big spot Friday), and Chirinos to add bullpen depth.

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Three right-handed hitting infielders — Jesus Aguilar, Mike Brosseau and Daniel Robertson — were dropped, in part because Houston’s bullpen is righty heavy.

The Astros roster had a local tie, with rookie outfielder Kyle Tucker, the Tampa native and Plant High product included. Tucker could start a game, be used as a lefty pinch-hitter or as a pinch-runner, Hinch saying, “the surprise for me is how aggressive he was on the bases during the month of September. … Having that as a weapon, if we needed to deploy it, was huge for us on this playoff roster.’’

If you like to watch

The Rays are hosting watch parties on both sides of the bay starting at 8 for Saturday’s 9:07 p.m. Game 2.

In St. Petersburg, there will be an Under the Stars party at downtown waterfront Al Lang Stadium starting at 8, with fans allowed to sit on blankets on the soccer field (no chairs) or in the seats in the stands, with free bottled water, soda and popcorn, $5 beers and limited food for sale.

In Tampa, the party is at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, site of Tampa Bay’s Tailgate Taste Fest, with fans allowed to sit on a blanket or chairs.

Altuve’s contribution

He has been overshadowed at times in the regular season by younger teammates such as Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez, but second baseman Jose Altuve still seems to be the guy to avoid in Houston’s lineup in the postseason. Altuve broke a scoreless tie in the fifth with a two-run homer off Tyler Glasnow. It is the third consecutive season that Altuve has homered in Game 1 of the ALDS. “This is my fourth (postseason) and it feels like the first one,’’ Altuve said. “I don’t think it ever gets normal.’’

Snell game

While Glasnow has gotten progressively sharper since coming off the injured list in September, Game 2 starter Blake Snell has struggled at times with his command. Snell gave up five hits and five walks in six innings over three starts, although he has struck out 11. “I’m not too worried about what I’ve done. I’ve kind of taken it as rehab starts,’’ Snell said. “There are things I needed to … work on.’’ Snell said he is hopeful of going five innings.


* Cash said his toughest lineup decision was going with Yandy Diaz at DH over Avisail Garcia. His thought was that Diaz, who homered twice Wednesday, was slightly hotter than Garcia, who went deep once. Diaz went 0-for-4 Friday, Cash said Garcia will play Saturday.

* Charlie Morton on Wednesday became the first pitcher in MLB history to have wins in three winner-take-all games, having won Game 7 of the 2017 ALCS and World Series for the Astros.

* The Rays have four scouts in New York to cover the Twins-Yankees series.

* The Rays are 14-18 all-time in postseason play.