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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.

Video: Jorge Soler launches first home run of spring training

Jorge Soler
Associated Press
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The Royals and Rangers played the first game of spring training today. A few other teams (the Red Sox, Tigers and Twins) played or are currently playing college squads, but Kansas City-Texas is our first matchup of big league teams. Baseball’s back, baby! And you know what baseball means?

Kansas City’s Jorge Soler, who hit 48 homers last year to lead the American League, offered us the year’s first glimpse at recreational baseball murder when he took Kolby Allard out over the left field yard.

Mmm. That’s the good stuff. Here’s to eight and a half months more of that. Bring me the dingers.

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