HOUSTON — The focus, naturally, is on Gerrit Cole in tonight’s fifth and final game of the American League Division Series.
The Astros co-ace went 20-5 in the regular season, leading the league with a 2.50 ERA and the majors with 326 strikeouts.
But the Rays have a pretty impressive option themselves.
Tyler Glasnow has a 2.16 ERA since coming off the injured list, and the Rays went 10-2 in his starts this season. Take away the Yankees game May 10, when he left in the sixth inning with a forearm strain that would keep him out for nearly four months, and Glasnow has not given up more than two runs in any other start.
“It was important to stay prepared, knowing I could have gone out of the bullpen (in Games 3 and 4 of the ALDS),’’ Glasnow said. “Luckily, we played super well, and I’m excited to pitch in Game 5.’’
With Glasnow throwing 76 pitches against the Astros in Game 1, manager Kevin Cash said he could be ready to throw 90 tonight depending on how he looks.
“I think you go in with a game plan, a thought process, but you gauge how the ball is coming out and how they’re feeling,’’ Cash said. “We’ll just see how it goes.’’
The Rays managed their bullpen well in Tuesday’s series-tying win, using five relievers and then usual starter Blake Snell to close in holding the Astros to one run.
And they’ll have even more options tonight behind Glasnow. Cash said all other pitchers will be available in relief, including Snell, who threw eight pitches Tuesday to get the final two outs, and former Astro Charlie Morton.
A key to the Rays’ strategy Tuesday was using relievers who had noticeably different styles and not giving the Astros more than one look at any of them as “starter” Diego Castillo, Ryan Yarbrough and Nick Anderson faced only seven batters each, Colin Poche six and Emilio Pagan four.
Cash said the combination of their stuff and style is the key.
“Their stuff is really, really good. Now, saying that, I don’t know if you’re going to see two bigger contrasts from Diego Castillo to Ryan Yarbrough, and then you bring in Nick Anderson. There’s a lot of opposites in there,’’ Cash said. “Diego does it with the sinker slider. Yarbs kind of mixes speeds and doesn’t break 90 but can really pitch. And then Nick comes in there with kind of the high fastball that we can really get on hitters quick. So it’s a combination of both. But (Tuesday’s) game, probably that’s where the contrast really played a role.’’
The Rays were finalizing plans Wednesday for three official watch parties for tonight. One is in Tampa at Sparkman Wharf, the other two in St. Petersburg, at the Park and Rec bar downtown and Straub Park, where the game will be shown instead of the planned movie on the big outdoor screen. A number of other area bars and restaurants are also planning parties, include Ferg’s across from the Trop, which is bringing in a “large-screen TV truck.’’
Encouraging number of the day
Record of teams in the fifth game of a best-of-five series in which they trailed 0-2.
Quote of the day
“We went to Toronto with the same bag, went to Oakland, took it to Houston, took it home for a couple of days. So it’s getting a little stinky in the bag, but we’ll take it.’’
Hitting coach Chad Mottola, with perhaps too much information, as the Rays made their fifth flight in 15 days
• The Rays are 8-4 in potential elimination games, including 4-1 on the road, and 3-0 this season. With a win tonight, they would become the 10th team to win four potential elimination games in the same postseason.
• Cash said late Wednesday afternoon he was still deciding on his lineup, though it seemed unlikely Yandy Diaz, who left Monday’s Game 3 with a sore foot, would start.
• The Rays spent Tuesday night at home and left for Houston at noon Wednesday with a traveling party in excess of 200. A handful of players reported to Minute Maid Park for light work and/or treatment from the trainers.
• This is the second time the Rays have forced a fifth game in ALDS play after losing the first two. They lost the finale versus Texas in 2010.
• Odd stat, but Rays shortstop Willy Adames on Tuesday became the first player in postseason history to throw out a runner at the plate (excluding forceouts) and then lead off the next half-inning with a homer, Stats LLC said.