Willy Adames and Tommy Pham on Tuesday belted homers and the Tampa Bay Rays chased Justin Verlander early as they forced a deciding Game 5 in the American League (AL) Division Series with a 4-1 win over the Houston Astros.
Pham hit Verlander’s eighth pitch of the game for a home run to spark a three-run first inning for the Rays, who evened the best-of-five series at 2-2.
“We did a better job of putting the ball in play,” the Rays’ Pham said. “Kudos to us. We have a great pitching staff. We play great defense and our bats are starting to come together.”
The series shifts back to Houston, Texas, today for a decisive Game 5.
The top-seeded Astros opened the series with 6-2 and 3-1 wins before Tampa Bay swept a pair at home, including a 10-3 win on Monday.
Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier said that being the underdog has its advantages.
“People before this series started talking about David and Goliath,” Kiermaier said. “I understand they are really good on paper and we might be the team that is not as appealing, but don’t ever count us out. We got guys feeling really good about themselves and we are clicking as a team all year.”
A half-dozen Tampa pitchers combined for a six-hitter as Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell came out of the bullpen for his first career relief appearance and held off Houston in the ninth inning to earn the save at Tropicana Field.
Astros ace Verlander was not so fortunate. He was starting on just three days of rest for the first time in his career after dominating the Rays in Game 1, but he looked shaky on the mound and was pulled in the fourth inning.
The veteran was charged with four runs on seven hits in 3-2/3 innings. He walked three and struck out five.
“I walked a couple of guys. They came up with some big hits when they needed to,” Verlander said. “Honestly, I need those infield singles to be caught. When you don’t have it, you need the balls that are put in play to go your way, and they didn’t. It is not the way you would script it — it sucks.”
Adames clubbed a home run off Verlander and gunned down Jose Altuve at home plate in the fourth.
“We never panicked,” Kiermaier said. “It is even better now. We got a lot of momentum.”
The Astros finally got on the board in the eighth inning when Robinson Chirinos hit a two-out, solo home run off Colin Poche to close the gap to 4-1.
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