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Rays clobber Justin Verlander in first inning of ALDS Game 4

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Tommy Pham provided an early lead for the Rays in Game 4 of the ALDS against the Astros as they attempt to stave off elimination against Justin Verlander. Pham worked a 2-2 count before swatting an 88 MPH change-up into the seats in left field. Verlander missed his spot and caught too much of the plate.

The Rays weren’t done. After Pham’s homer, Ji-Man Choi walked, Avisaíl García singled, and Travis d'Arnaud laced a two-out single to right to bring Choi home, boosting the lead to 2-0. Joey Wendle followed up with a single to right field to plate, plating García. At long last, Verlander was able to end the threat by striking out Kevin Kiermaier with his 32nd pitch of the inning.

Verlander, 36, is pitching on three days’ rest, something he hadn’t done in his 15-year career entering Tuesday’s action. During the regular season, Verlander allowed a career-high 36 home runs, thanks in part to the — ahem — altered baseball. The AL Cy Young contender was brilliant in his Game 1 start against the Rays, holding them to one hit and three walks with eight strikeouts across seven shutout innings.

If the Astros are able to come back and win, they will advance into the ALCS for a third consecutive year. The Rays, after shelling the Astros 10-3 on Monday, are trying to force a Game 5. If they can win tonight and Game 5 on Thursday, they’ll move into the ALCS for the first time since 2008.

Oakland Athletics reverse course: will continue to pay minor leaguers

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Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Oakland Athletics owner John Fisher has reversed course and will continue to pay minor leaguers. Fisher tells Slusser, “I concluded I made a mistake.” He said he is also setting up an assistance fund for furloughed employees.

The A’s decided in late May to stop paying paying minor leaguers as of June 1, which was the earliest date on which any club could do so after an MLB-wide agreement to pay minor leaguers through May 31 expired. In the event, the A’s were the only team to stop paying the $400/week stipends to players before the end of June. Some teams, notable the Royals and Twins, promised to keep the payments up through August 31, which is when the minor league season would’ve ended. The Washington Nationals decided to lop off $100 of the stipends last week but, after a day’s worth of blowback from the media and fans, reversed course themselves.