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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.

Report: Mets sign Brad Brach to one-year, $850,000 contract

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The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports that the Mets and free agent reliever Brad Brach have agreed on a one-year deal worth $850,000. The contract includes a player option for the 2021 season with a base salary of $1.25 million and additional performance incentives.

Brach, 33, signed as a free agent with the Cubs this past February. After posting an ugly 6.13 ERA over 39 2/3 innings, the Cubs released him in early August. The Mets picked him up shortly thereafter. Brach’s performance improved, limiting opposing hitters to six runs on 15 hits and three walks with 15 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings through the end of the season.

While Brach will add some much-needed depth to the Mets’ bullpen, his walk rate has been going in the wrong direction for the last three seasons. It went from eight percent in 2016 to 9.5, 9.7, and 12.8 percent from 2017-19. Needless to say the Mets are hoping that trend starts heading in the other direction next season.