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Rays-Astros: Rays push the series to the brink

Tampa Bay staves off elimination - again
Rays relief pitcher Ryan Yarbrough (48) delivers a pitch in the second inning against Houston in Game 4 on Tuesday night. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published Oct. 8
Updated Oct. 9

ST. PETERSBURG — Keep reading here to keep pace with the game.

Top of the ninth: Emilio Pagan remains in the game and starts the ninth facing Michael Brantley. Brantley drives one to deep left but it’s hauled in on the warning track. One down, two to go. Jose Altuve is at the plate and battling Pagan. After eight pitches, Altuve draws a walk. Alex Bregman at the plate and he’s worked a 2-1 count. It’s not over. Bregman drives a 2-2 pitch into left. With runners at the corners, Kevin Cash turns to Blake Snell to get the last two outs. Snell faces Yordan Alvarez. And he strikes him with a curve ball in the dirt. Two down, one to go. Snell now faces Yuli Gurriel. Snell’s pitch bounces away from catcher Travis d’Arnaud and Bregman advances to second. Gurriel grounds up the middle. The Rays are perfectly positioned and throws him out at first. That’s the ball game. Rays 4, Astros 1.

Guess who snagged a foul ball earlier tonight.

Bottom of the eighth: The Astros bring Will Harris to the mound, it’s sixth pitcher of the night. He starts by facing Austin Meadows. Meadows strikes out for the fourth time tonight. Up next: Tommy Pham. He sends one to deep right center and Jake Marisnick, who entered the game in the ninth, runs it down. Now up with two outs, Ji-Man Choi. Choi singles while fans chant his name. Good. The chant appeared to unnerve him in Game 3. Avisail Garcia now at the plate. He drives a shot into left field and now with two outs, the Rays have men at first and second. Brandon Lowe comes up, but strikes out on a check swing. After 8 innings, with three outs remaining, it’s Rays 4, Astros 1.

Top of the eighth: Colin Poche remains in the game for the Rays. He induces Carlos Correa into a 5-4 grounder to get the first out. Now up, Aledmys Diaz, pinch hitting for Josh Reddick. Diaz strikes out swinging and now Poche faces former Ray Robinson Chirinos, and Chirinos homes to right center. Blame A.J. Pierzynki. The Fox Sports 1 analyst raved about the Rays’ bullpen just before Chirinos drove it out. Jinx. Now entering the game for the Rays, Emilio Pagan. He’s facing George Springer. Springer flies out to center. After 7½, it’s Rays 4, Astros 1.

Bottom of the seventh: Astros bring Joe Smith to the mound, and he starts the inning facing Joey Wendle. Wendle flies out to center. Up next: Kevin Kiermaier. He flies out to left on the first pitch. Willy Adames comes up and flies out to right. The Rays, realizing that the Tampa Bay Times needs time to make its two-star deadline, goes down in order on six pitches. After 7 innings, it’s Rays 4, Astros 0.

Top of the seventh: Colin Poche enters the game for the Rays and induces Alex Bregman into a lazy fly into right field. Yordan Alvarez steps up next and Poche buzzes him close to the head. After falling behind 2-0, Poche strikes out Alvarez looking. Yuli Gurriel comes up next and flies out right. After 6½, it’s Rays 4, Astros 0.

Interesting song choice after the sixth inning: Jefferson Starship’s Jane. Maybe for Mayor Jane Castor?

Announced attendance at the Trop tonight: 32,178. Still, haters gotta hate. Good or bad. Right or wrong. We are who we are. Live with it Mr. Phillips.

Bottom of the sixth: Jose Urquidy remains in the game for Houston and Tommy Pham comes to the plate to lead off the sixth. Pham bloops one to right that lands safely for a single. Interesting stat from Fox Sports 1: the home team in this series has produced 23 runs and 41 hits. Ji-Man Choi comes up next and after walking three times, he strikes out. Now up: Avisail Garcia. Garcia lines a slider to left, and ow there’s men on first and second with one out. Now warming up for Houston: Ryan Pressly. Brandon Lowe comes up next and strikes out swinging. Two outs, and now Houston brings Pressly in to face Travis d’Arnaud. After fouling off five consecutive pitches, d’Arnaud takes a ball. It’s now a 1-2 count. d’Arnaud grounds to Bregman at third and throws to first to retire the side. After 6 innings, it’s Rays 4, Astros 0.

Top of the sixth: Nick Anderson remains in the game for the Rays and faces George Springer. Springer singles to right. Michael Brantley comes up next and again Ji-Man Choi makes a huge defensive play. He snares a liner off Brantley’s bat, and tags first to double off Springer. Double play. Choi entered the season with questions about his ability to play first, but he’s shining tonight. Now up, Jose Altuve. And Anderson strikes him out looking. After 5½, it’s Rays 4, Astros 0.

Hey -- check out these photos of Tropicana Field action from the Times gallery.

Bottom of the fifth: Jose Urquidy enters the game and promptly hits Travis d’Arnaud. Brandon Lowe comes up next and promptly hits into a 6-4 double play. Kevin Kiermaier comes up next and singles to left. Joe Girardi notes that the Rays have yet to have a bad inning tonight. Willy Adames comes up and draws a walk. Now there’s men on first and second, two outs and Austin Meadows, the Rays co-MVP, at the plate. But Meadows strikes out swinging and the threat is ended. After 5 innings, it’s Rays 4, Astros 0.

We included Tampa mayor Jane Castor in this live update. Let’s give some equal time to St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman.

Top of the fifth: Nick Anderson stays in the game and retires Carlos Correa on a fly ball. Josh Reddick follows and also flies out. The Astros appear to have lost their energy, lost their mojo. Now up, Robinson Chirinos. Chirinos strikes out looking on what has now become vintage Anderson: a sliding fast ball on the black. After 4½ innings, it’s Rays 4, Astros 0.

Bottom of the fourth: Verlander remains in the game and starts the inning facing Willy Adames. Let’s see if after a big play in the field, he can get a big hit. And he does it! Adames sends a shot to deep center. It’s gone. The homer bounces off a cat walk. Austin Meadows comes to the plate and strikes out. Tommy Pham follows and flies out to left. Ji-Man Choi comes up and draws a walk. That’ll do it for Verlander. He exits and gives way to Josh James. Avasail Garcia greets James with an infield single, but James strikes out Brandon Lowe to end the inning. After 4 innings, it’s Rays 4, Astros 0.

From the scintillating start to the game to the relay that gunned down Altuve at the plate, it appears to be a magical night at the Trop. So far.

Top of the fourth: Yarbrough remains in the game and Jose Altuve leads off the inning with a single to left. Alex Bregman follows and flies out to shallow left center. Up next, Yordan Alvarez. Alvarez drives a shot to deep center. Kevin Keirmaier chases it down, relays to Willy Adames and he throws Altuve out at home. Alvarez holds up at second. Now Nick Anderson comes on for Yarbrough to face Yuli Gurriel. Anderson throws a wild pitch and Alvarez advances to third. Gurriel hits a weak grounder back to Anderson and he throws to first to retire the side. After 3½, it’s Rays 3, Astros 0.


Are the Rays relaying on divine intervention?

Bottom of the third: Brandon Lowe opens the inning against Verlander with a ground rule double. Give Lowe a yard tool because he came to rake tonight. d’Arnaud comes up next and grounds out to the right side. Lowe advances to third. Up next, Joey Wendle. Verlander strikes him out on a curve high in the zone. Now up, Kevin Kiermaier. He swings at the first pitch and grounds out to second. After 3 innings, it’s Rays 3, Astros 0.

Top of the third: Ryan Yarbrough remains in the game and starts by facing catcher Robinson Chirinos. Chirinos flies out to right. George Springer comes up and Yarbrough fields a weak tapper to barley throw out Springer at first. Yarbrough follows by inducing Michael Brantley into a weak grounder back to the mound. He retires the side easily. After 2½, it’s Rays 3, Astros 0.

Bottom of the second: Willy Adames leads the inning off and flies out to right on the first pitch. Verlander now faces Austin Meadows. Meadows fights off a few pitches and then flies out to center. Verlander now facing Tommy Pham, and Verlander appears frustrated. Pham singles up the middle after fighting off seven pitches. He’s on first with two outs. Now Ji-Man Choi is at the plate and Verlander is laboring at 51 pitches. Choi draws a walk and now Verlander is up to 54 pitches. Avisail Garcia comes up and strikes out. After 2 innings, it’s Rays 3, Astros 0, Verlander struggling.

With the Rays bolting to an early lead, the Trop is again electric.

Top of the second: Diego Castillo comes out to start the second and faces Yordan Alvarez. Alvarez pops out to short right. Now up, Yuli Gurriel. Gurriel draws a walk. Here comes pitching coach Kyle Snyder to talk to Castillo. Carlos Correa pops up to short right. Now two outs and Kevin Cash comes to the mound to relieve Castillo. He gets a huge ovation from the crowd. Now entering the game to face lefty Josh Reddick, Ryan Yarbrough. Reddick hits a liner to first and Ji-Man Choi makes a leaping stab to get the third out. After 1½, it’s Rays 3, Astros 0.

Bottom of the first: Justin Verlander steps up and his first pitch is 93 mph. Pitching on three days rest, there will be questions about his velocity and his command. He fans lead-off hitter Austin Meadows on a check swing. Now up, Tommy Pham, who’s the DH tonight. Phamtastic! Pham takes Verlander deep, drilling a 88-mile changeup, to give the Rays a 1-0 lead. The ball sailed over the left center fence. Ji-Man Choi follows and draws a walk. The crowd roars. Avisail Garcia is up next and he raps a single to the right side. Choi advances to second. Verlander retired the Rays in the first inning of Game 1 on 11 pitches. He’s now up to 16 and now has only one out. Brandon Lowe comes up and pops up to short right. Two outs. Travis d’Arnaud comes up next and RBI! He singles to right, scoring Choi. And the inning continues with Joey Wendle at the plate. Wendle doubles! Garcia scores from second and d’Arnaud holds up at third. The Astros now have Josh James up in the bullpen. Houston pitching coach Brent Strom comes to the mound to try to settle Verlander down. Kevin Kiermaier comes up next and strikes out. But the Rays send eight to the plate. After the first inning, it’s Rays 3, Astros 0.

Top of the first: George Springer singles to reach first against Rays “opener” Diego Castillo. Michael Brantley follows and is called out on strikes. Jose Altuve comes up next and after fouling off several pitches, Castillo gets him with a nasty sinker. Alex Bregman comes to the plate and Castillo strikes him out on five pitches, fanning a swinging Bregman with a slider. As the Rays come to the plate, it’s scoreless.

B.K. Jackson, an extraordinary saxophone player and Blake High alum performed the national anthem tonight. The Times published one of the first media stories about B.K. when he was 14. Now Jackson enjoys a solo career after touring with the likes of Prince and Trombone Shorty.

Fox Sports 1 analyst Frank Thomas says look for Ji-Man Choi to break through against Verlander. David “Big Papi” Ortiz picked Kevin Kiermaier, in part because his babysitter “thinks he’s hot.”

But generally speaking, the pregame proved all about Houston. Really. It started an hour before first pitch, and the Fox Sports 1 pregame crew talked entirely too much about the Astros and how they’ll match up with the Yankees.

The network aired a feature asking players about when they knew were in the majors. All the players were Astros. It’s primary feature was about the Astros’ Alex Bregman. And to add insult to injury, they showed the Mariners play that saved baseball for Seattle, and stopped the team from coming to St. Petersburg.

And so it begins.

Here are the lineups:

Also, Tampa mayor Jane Castor is at the game.

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