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Astros relieved to be done with Rays after a five-game grind

Preparing for Rays steady steam of relievers was a significant challenge for Houston’s hitters.

HOUSTON - The Astros had several nice things to say about how hard the Rays played during the five-game series that ended Thursday night with a Houston win.

"What a classy series, man,'' Astros starter Gerrit Cole said. "They grinded so hard. They gave us such a good fight.''

But they had even more to say about the Rays’ unusual style of play, such as matching up so heavily with their numerous bullpen options.

"Yeah, it’s tough,'' Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. "It’s not just so many pitchers. It’s not about the number of pitchers, it’s about the quality of their pitchers and how they match them up and how Kevin (Cash) never concedes an at-bat. It’s hard to get through that many quality pitchers. It’s not about the number. Anybody can throw 13 pitchers at you or 10 pitchers at you, whatever they want, but they’re bringing real stuff on to the field.

"I think they made it a goal of theirs and a plan of theirs and I think when they game-planned against us they were not going to give too many multiple at-bats to too many pitcher/hitter combos and they did it. We know that’s going to happen but when you experience it it’s just really hard to get anything to hit against an elite pitching staff.

"This is top to bottom probably the best pitching staff that we faced all year. And that’s not disrespecting anybody else in the league, that’s just how good they are and how they match their guys up in their favor. And in a short series it’s scary as hell because they can get matchups and you have to beat their strength. And fortunately we were able to do that.

"Their bullpen never really cracked until maybe the end of the series when we got a couple of base hits. I much prefer old school baseball where we get a couple of looks at these guys.''

Alex Bregman saw it much the same way.

"The Rays pitching staff was unbelievable to face,'' he said. "I mean, I think the only time the ball looked that small was opening weekend of the year when we faced them. So they were really, really good. It was a really good test.''

The unpredictability of how Cash manages also factors in.

"It’s hard to win games where you know the other side is going to do anything possible,'' Hinch said. "If you take a step back and look at what they were willing to do to change things. Like Blake Snell coming out of the bullpen twice. They had guys up every inning. We were spending just as much time looking on the TV monitor to see who was warming up and what they possibly were going to do than even watching what was going on in the field. That preparation is exhausting.''

So, too, was watching Cash.

" Kevin Cash probably got like 15 miles in walking back and forth to the mound this series,'' Cole said.