Astros Blown Out in Game 3, Verlander to Start Game 4

Justin Verlander gets the nod in game four Tuesday in Tampa Bay.
Justin Verlander gets the nod in game four Tuesday in Tampa Bay. Photo by Jack Gorman
Much of the buzz surrounding game three of the ALDS in Tampa Bay was with former Astros pitcher Charlie Morton. The staff ace for the Rays had been outstanding all season, but was unable to play in the first two games of the series because he started the Wild Card game against the A's. Right when the Rays needed him, Morton showed up big time helping Tampa trounce the Astros 10-3. The win is the first for the Rays this series and leaves them still down 2-1 in this best-of-five matchup.

On the other side was Zack Greinke, who the Astros acquired at the trade deadline. Grienke had been stellar in Arizona, but wasn't quite as good in Houston with the exception of a dominant final outing of the season. On Monday, he was roughed up to the tune of six runs, all earned, on five hits including three home runs in only three-and-two-thirds innings.

Hector Rondon followed him giving up a run without an out. Wade Miley then entered allowing three runs (two earned) in two-and-two-thirds. Joe Smith and Josh James finished off the day with two scoreless, but the damage was done.

Offensively, the Astros remain hogtied by the Rays pitching. George Springer is 0 for everything in this series and Michael Brantley is hitting just .167. Jose Altuve got a home run in the first (his 10th career postseason homer, tying Chase Utley for the all-time record among second basemen) as he, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez and Yuli Gurriel continue to hit well. But there just isn't enough firepower at the moment.

In fairness, Morton remained dominant in postseason elimination games — he's 4-0 with a 0.95 ERA in his four starts. Greinke was anything but, which may be a microcosm of the bigger picture or just tough luck at Tropicana Field, where he is now 0-4 with a 4.45 ERA. The Astros, generally, have not been good in Tampa and they certainly didn't change that on Tuesday.

With two games remaining to move on to the ALCS, A.J. Hinch announced after Monday's game that game one starter, Justin Verlander, will go for the Astros. He has never started on three days rest, only pitching out of the bullpen, but he said he feels good and he said he is ready to go. That would still leave them with Gerrit Cole at home in game five if necessary.

The Astros are still likely to beat the Rays and move on, but Monday's loss felt like a gut punch. They would do well to get some run support for their staff ace tomorrow and put this one in the books so they can focus on the ALCS.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke