ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Willy Adames homered and made a sensational relay throw from shortstop, and the Tampa Bay Rays chased Justin Verlander early in beating the Houston Astros 4-1 Tuesday night to even their best-of-five AL Division Series at two games apiece.
Tommy Pham also went deep and Ryan Yarbrough combined with five other pitchers on a six-hitter for Tampa Bay. Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell — a graduate of Shorewood High School in Shoreline — came out of the bullpen for his first career relief appearance, holding off Houston in the ninth inning to earn the save.
Verlander, starting on short rest after dominating the wild-card Rays in Game 1, looked uncomfortable on the mound at Tropicana Field and was pulled in the fourth after giving up four runs.
The series moves to Houston for deciding Game 5 on Thursday night. Astros star Gerrit Cole is scheduled to pitch for the heavily favored AL West champs, who led the majors with 107 victories this season and have one more chance to close out the feisty Rays.
The winner plays the New York Yankees in the AL Championship Series.
Verlander, whose eight career ALDS victories are a major-league record, yielded three runs in the first.
Adames homered leading off the fourth to make it 4-0, and the Houston ace didn’t make it through the inning.
“A good approach for those guys in the first, and then 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,” Verlander said. “Obviously, not the way you would script it. You know, it sucks.”
The Rays played stellar defense, especially with the Astros threatening to cut into their three-run deficit in the fourth.
With speedy Jose Altuve on first base, Yordan Alvarez hit a long double that short-hopped the center-field wall. Two-time Gold Glove winner Kevin Kiermaier quickly grabbed the ball and fired to his cutoff man, Adames. He turned and executed a perfect relay home just in time to nail Altuve trying to score.
“That was probably the most incredible relay throw from an infielder I’ve ever seen,” Kiermaier said.
• Two NLDS Game 5s are scheduled Wednesday.
Jack Flaherty (11-8) of St. Louis will pitch against Mike Foltynewicz (8-6) in Atlanta. Washington’s Stephen Strasburg (18-6) will face Walker Buehler (14-4) of the Dodgers in Los Angeles.