Houston Astros: Star studded rotation gets knocked around on the road

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - OCTOBER 08: Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros leaves the game in the fourth inning during Game 4 of the ALDS between the Houston Astros and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on Tuesday, October 8, 2019 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
ST. PETERSBURG, FL - OCTOBER 08: Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros leaves the game in the fourth inning during Game 4 of the ALDS between the Houston Astros and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on Tuesday, October 8, 2019 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /
facebooktwitterreddit

With Game three ending in a loss, the Houston Astros turned to one of their best pitchers during the regular season for Game four.

When the day ended on October 8, 2019, not many baseball fans across the country expected the Tampa Bay Rays to tie the ALDS series with the Houston Astros at 2 games apiece.

The Houston Astros had ace Justin Verlander on the mound; the future Hall of Famer who crafted a 7.8 WAR and 2.58 ERA on the 2019 season. Factor in an impressive Game 1 earlier in the ALDS series, going 7 innings pitched and 0 earned runs with 8 strikeouts, and it looked like the Rays were going to be hitting the golf courses earlier than they had hoped for this postseason.

But something in Tampa’s water has the Astros starting rotation giving up runs, making us wonder if Houstons spectacular cast of starting pitchers can’t handle pitching in other juice brand stadiums this postseason (Tropicana is owned by Pepsi, Minute Maid under Coca-Cola).

More from Call to the Pen

Justin Verlander, the consistent cog in the Houston Astros starting rotation, was roughed up for 4 earned runs, 7 hits, and 3 walks while going only 3.2 innings in a crucial game in the series. While these may not seem like the most unimpressive numbers to the average pitcher, Verlander only gave up 4 earned runs only 6 times in a season where he started 34 games.

To look at the bigger picture, this all started the previous night with the Astros key deadline acquisition in veteran pitcher Zack Greinke.

The 6-2 right-hander also had an impressive regular season, pitching to an impressive 2.93 ERA and 187 strikeouts while playing for both the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Houston Astros. Greinke was so impressive during the regular season, the Astros risked some of their future and decided to send a boatload of prospects to Arizona in order to bolster the pitching staff for another postseason run.

Greinke was tasked with Game 3 of the ALDS in Tampa Bay, with a win sending the Astros to face the New York Yankees in the ALCS.

Similar to Verlander, the right-hander was roughed up under the lights of Tropicana Field, also only going 3.2 innings but surrendering 3 home runs to finish with 6 earned runs on the evening. This rough start would cumulate in a Rays win, extending the ALDS another game and forcing the Astros management to waste another one of their star pitchers, a game Verlander insisted on starting.

Justin knew he would be starting the game on short rest, trying to play the hero and send the Astros off to the next round of the postseason and avoiding a Game 5 back in Houston.

Next. Washington Nationals shift series, pressure back to Dodgers. dark

With Game 5 now scheduled for Thursday, it appears the Houston Astros will be turning to Gerrit Cole to seal the victory, with the luck of playing in Minute Maid Park on their starting pitcher’s side.