On Friday, the Houston Astros took down the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 1 of their American League Divisional Series by a 6-2 final. Justin Verlander and Tyler Glasnow traded zeroes through the first four-plus innings before the Astros found a way to plate four runs in the bottom of the fifth, including two on a Jose Altuve home run.
Verlander, for his part, had held the Rays hitless until the top part of the fifth when he yielded a single to Brandon Lowe. It was the only hit he'd give up all day.
The Rays, meanwhile, were simply unable to figure out Verlander and had their bullpen falter. As such, the Astros now have a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
For more on this game, here are our big takeaways.
Why the Astros won
It starts with Verlander. He was brilliant, to the extent that he tossed seven one-hit innings while fanning eight and issuing three walks. His start was the 13th in postseason history to involve seven shutout innings and one hit or fewer:
Justin Verlander with the 13th start in postseason history of 7+ scoreless IP, no more than 1 hit.— Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) October 4, 2019
- Verlander (HOU) today
- Bronson Arroyo (CIN), 2012
- Roy Halladay (PHI), 2010*
- Woody Williams (STL) and Brandon Backe (HOU) in same game (2004)
The Astros lineup deserves its share of credit as well. While runs were tough to tally against Glasnow, they jumped on the underbelly of the Rays' bullpen -- mostly Brendan McKay and Oliver Drake -- and took advantage of on Tampa Bay's part.
It's reductive to say it was a total team effort -- Ryan Pressly wasn't on his game -- but on Friday the Astros provided validation for the belief that they're the superior club in this series.
Why the Rays lost
As outlined above, the Rays can blame their defeat on a few different aspects -- going up against a future Hall of Fame pitcher; some defensive shortcomings; and so on. We'll highlight one other point, and that's going counterculture to their own MO.
That Altuve home run came on the third time he faced Glasnow. The Rays, as much as any team it seems, are programmed to avoid unnecessary exposure. Kevin Cash seemed to want one more frame -- or at least one more batter -- from Glasnow, and that ended up costing him.
Obviously we're not blaming that decision alone for why the Rays lost, it just stood out as a call that doesn't seem to align with what we know about the team.
You don't have to look very hard to figure out where texture of the game changed. It was in that fifth inning, when Altuve cranked a two-run shot off Glasnow. That homer put the Astros up 2-0, which was more than enough for Verlander and crew. The Astros then added a couple additional runs -- due in part to a Brandon Lowe error -- and made the outcome a fait accompli.
Play of the Game
We keep referencing the Altuve home run, how about we show it to you? Roll that beautiful footage:
The ability to take a hot fastball in a high spot and hit it a long way is part of the reason Altuve is a former MVP and a six-time All-Star.
The two sides will hook up again on Saturday. The Rays will hope Blake Snell can help them avoid falling into a 2-0 hole. The Astros will counter with Cy Young hopeful Gerrit Cole. A Houston win will put the Rays in a win-or-go-home predicament heading into Monday's Game 3.