The Astros are pulling out all the stops to avoid going to a Game 5 against the Rays.
After Tampa Bay prevented an ALDS sweep with a blowout win in Game 3, Houston manager A.J. Hinch announced Justin Verlander will start Tuesday’s Game 4.
“He’s one of the best pitchers in the world,” Hinch told reporters. “It’s no more complicated than that. He’s ready, and it’s his game.”
Verlander threw seven scoreless innings in Game 1 on Friday, meaning his Game 4 start will be on three days of rest. It will be the second time he’s started on such a turnaround, though the first came under much less strenuous circumstances. He threw one inning in Game 1 of the 2011 ALDS against the Yankees — a game that was suspended by rain — and returned for an eight-inning start in Game 4 on two days of rest.
The 36-year-old has also made a postseason relief appearance on three days of rest, throwing 2 2/3 innings out of the bullpen in Game 4 of the 2017 ALDS against the Red Sox after going six innings in a Game 1 start.
Those appearances had moderate success. Verlander surrendered four runs in the start against the Yankees, and one run in his relief appearnace against Boston.
Hinch starting Verlander continues the trend of playoff teams shortening rotations and bullpens in order to give as many innings as possible to their best pitchers. The Nationals have used starters Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin out of the bullpen in the NLDS against the Dodgers, while the Rays are continuing to rely heavily on their bullpen; Diego Castillo will be the Rays opener in Game 4.
If Verlander can’t Verlander the Rays again, right-hander Gerrit Cole should be ready to start Game 5 in Houston on regular rest. Third baseman Alex Bregman, though, doesn’t envision that becoming necessary.
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