Justin Verlander tries to pitch Astros into ALCS on short rest

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After two straight weekdays of four games a piece we have a quaint one game day today, with the Astros taking on the Rays this evening. If the Astros win they’ll move on to face the Yankees in the ALCS. If the Rays win it’s back to Houston for a deciding Game 5 on Thursday.

The Game: Houston Astros @ Tampa Bay Rays
The Ballpark: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Florida
The Time: 7:07 PM Eastern
The Network: FS1
The Pitchers: Justin Verlander vs. The Bullpen

The Upshot:

Technically Diego Castillo gets the start for the Rays but he’s the opener and this will be an all-hands-on-deck bullpen game for Tampa Bay. A.J. Hinch had left his fourth starter blank until yesterday, leaving open the possibility that he might go with rookie José Urquidy or Wade Miley, but Miley pitched out of the pen yesterday and Urquidy hasn’t seen action in 11 days.

Frankly, though, it’s hard to imagine that Hinch truly ever would go with anyone but Verlander here given that the current situation — Astros up 2-1 — is the most optimistic possible scenario in which a Game 4 could be happening from his point of view. I dunno, maybe he just wanted to keep the Rays guessing.

If you didn’t look I bet you would’ve figured that Verlander, the horse that he is, has done well on short rest in the past. You’d be wrong. Not that he’s done poorly either. Actually, he’s never really worked on short rest ever. See for yourself. He technically has one postseason start on three-days’ rest before, back in the 2011 ALDS, but that was because his first start was rain-shortened and he had only thrown one inning. This will be the first time in his big league career he has ever gone on three-days’ rest after a full start. Kind of shocking, but there you have it.

As for that last start, Verlander went seven scoreless innings in Game 1 on Friday, throwing 100 pitches while allowing just one hit and striking out eight. Not too bad.

Everything about Verlander suggests he should be OK on short rest, but you never really know. All the Rays do know is that, if they don’t beat him this evening, their season is over.