HOUSTON — Rays starter Tyler Glasnow acknowledged it was “pretty obvious” he was tipping his pitches during the rough first inning that basically decided Thursday’s game,
He said, and manager Kevin Cash confirmed, that it had previously been an issue, which Glasnow said is tied to the different height at which he holds his glove when throwing a fastball and curveball.
“It’s kind of a rhythm and timing thing that is kind of hard to change even if you know you’re doing it,’’ Glasnow said after the Rays’ 6-1 loss in Game 5 of the AL division series. Especially, Cash said, at such a critical juncture. "It’s just tough to make those in-game adjustments,'' Cash said.
Glasnow gave up hits to the first four Astros, and five of the first six, in the four-run first. After the fourth hit, by Alex Bregman, Glasnow said he started to think something was “a little weird.’’
He left the game in the third, and quickly figured out the issue, though also wanted to make sure the Astros hitters got credit for what they did.
“When I came in and checked my phone there were a lot of people asking me about it. I went and looked (at the video) and it was pretty obvious,’’ he said. “It's something that I've done in the past, and some starts it's worse than others. Today it was relatively obvious.
“I don’t know if that was it. I’m not going to say that’s why I pitched bad. I’m not going to do that. They’re a really good lineup. They’re very good hitters and they got good swings.’’
The Astros, naturally, claimed to be totally unaware of any pitch tipping.
"No, no, no,'' Bregman said. "He’s as tough to face as anybody. I think if you went around and asked everybody on our team, it was just a team approach today. It was just one at-bat after another. I think (George) Springer’s at-bat to lead off the game to give us that first guy on was one of the biggest hits of our season. Then you see (Michael) Brantley do it, and Springer go first to third, and use our athleticism we have.
"And then Altuve gets a big hit to drive in the first run, break the ice. And then Brantley went first to third and that made my job easy hitting a fly ball, and was fortunate it stayed on the line, actually, and found some grass. But the ball that Glasnow throws, that cutter, the four-seam cutter that he throws is unbelievable. His breaking ball goes from your head to your toes quick. So I feel like with him you just had to pick a pitch and try to put a pretty good swing on it.
Sogard gets chance, makes most of it
Eric Sogard hadn’t been able to do much to help the Rays over the last month, sidelined most of that time after fouling a ball off his foot Sept. 6. He’d shown enough progress to be included on the division series roster, but made just one pinch-hit appearance in Game 1.
So he was understandably amped when manager Kevin Cash called Wednesday night, asked how he felt and told him he’d be starting at second base Thursday, taking the place of Brandon Lowe.
And then he showed it by knocking the first pitch he saw from Astros pitcher Gerrit Cole over the right-field wall to start the second inning.
“Obviously excited to be able to be out there,’ Sogard said before the game. “Haven’t been able to contribute much on the field this series. Any way I can off the field I’ve been doing it. But just excited to be out there and be able to go to battle with these guys. … Obviously I’ve been waiting all season for this in a way.’’
Blake Snell took over in the third inning for Tyler Glasnow, retiring Yordan Alvarez, then working a 1-2-3 fourth in the second relief appearance of his big-league career. The first came in Game 4 Tuesday, and while he enjoyed getting the final two outs and the save, he wasn’t a fan of the experience of spending the game with the relievers in the bullpen.
“That’s not for me,’’ Snell said. “I'm not going to lie. It was weird. I walked out with them. I just followed their whole bullpen routine. It was like where do I sit? I'm not trying to sit in anyone's spot, which is impossible, I sat in Diego (Castillo’s) spot. Yeah, I mean it was weird, it's just super boring. That's the truth. It's boring. There's not a lot to do.
"You just kind of look around. I get the advantage of I sit in the dugout and it’s right there in front of me. And when I go in the bullpen it’s like (Astros rightfielder) Josh Reddick is in front of me or Avisail (Garcia) is in front of me, and I’m looking at the game so far away, it’s like you’re in la-la land. It’s not for me. I don’t like it. But it was cool towards the end when I knew I had a chance to pitch and I was excited.’’
He did get some good snacks though. “I had some gum, some seeds,’’ he said. “I brought beef jerky. I had apple sauce on the way down, too. So it was an exciting time for me food-wise, but watching the game, a little boring.’’
Players have their own specifics routines, some more superstitious and others, as former Rays manager Joe Maddon used to say, semi-stitious. Some members of the Rays front office had their own lucky charms and the like handy Thursday.
For principal owner Stuart Sternberg and his partners, it was a box of Mallomars cookies, as they had them in their suite at the Trop for Games 3 and 4. For one of the partners, Randy Frankel, it was wearing the same “Don’t Stop Believin’” T-shirt he had for those games. One team president, Matt Silverman, wore the same Rays polo he did for the playoffs-clinching game in Toronto and the wild-card game. The other, Brian Auld, brought along one of the yellow rally towels from the Trop games at the insistence of his 7-year-old daughter, Lucy. But most, um, personal was general manager Erik Neander, who said he stopped wearing deodorant around the time the Rays swept the Indians in late August to move back into the wild-card picture and never really resumed.
* Given the logistics of not knowing until after the game whether they were headed to New York or home, the Rays stayed over in Houston Thursday night.
* Jake Cronenworth, who started pitching in addition to playing shortstop at Triple-A Durham this season, was named to the U.S. team to play in the November qualifying tournament for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
* Cash made the workouts on the Sunday and Wednesday off-days optional, and was glad most of the players took the opportunity to rest with only a handful coming to the field each day, most more to get treatment from the training staff than actually work out. “There’s been a lot of travel,’’ Cash said. “So if there’s an opportunity for them … (to) sit in their hotel bed or do whatever they want to do, I think there is value to that.’’
* With the 105-win Dodgers and 97-win Braves getting knocked out of the NL playoffs, the winner of the ALCS will have home-field advantage in the World Series.
* Rays prospects pitcher Shane Baz, infielder Vidal Brujan and outfielder Josh Lowe were selected to play in Saturday’s Arizona Fall League Fall Star Game (8 p.m., mlb.com). Catcher Ronaldo Hernandez is a candidate for a final fan vote spot (mlb.com).
Marc Topkin’s takeaways
Manager Kevin Cash played it coy when asked pre-game how he’d use his now 11-man bullpen with the addition of starters Charlie Morton and Blake Snell. As it turned out, the answer was early and often, as he used eight relievers to cover the 5 1/3 innings after starter Tyler Glasnow departed.
Eric Sogard got the Rays on the board against Gerrit Cole with his second inning homer, but Ji-Man Choi seemed to have the best overall at-bats, drawing a walk in the first and singling in the fourth. Though he came in hitting just .154 in the postseason, his six walks were the most of any player.
Cash was asked if anything surprised him in Wednesday’s NL playoff games, and he said only how the Cardinals scored 10 runs in the first inning in Atlanta. Though not quite as bad, the Astros four on Thursday had to feel almost as damaging know how hard it would be to score against Cole.
Contact Marc Topkin at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays