Rays push Astros to brink, but fall short in G5

Club is optimistic for 2020 after season ends shy of ultimate goal

October 11th, 2019

HOUSTON -- After falling in an 0-2 hole in the American League Division Series against the Astros, the Rays rallied around the “shock the world” mantra and were able to even the series at two games apiece back at Tropicana Field.

On Thursday night, that valiant comeback attempt fell just short, as the Rays dropped the deciding Game 5 of the ALDS to the Astros, 6-1, at Minute Maid Park.

The Rays leaned on in Game 5 after utilizing six pitchers in the Game 4 win. Glasnow, when healthy, was one of the best pitchers on the roster, but the right-hander struggled right out of the gate in the winner-take-all game, which proved costly.

Glasnow, who said he felt really good with his pitches, admitted that it was “pretty obvious” that he was tipping his pitches due to his glove placement in the first inning. That has been an issue for Glasnow in the past, but never in a bigger situation than Thursday.

“I think after the first inning, especially the [Alex] Bregman at-bat, the takes were pretty strange,” Glasnow said. “I’ve struggled with that at times in my career. Sometimes bigger than other times, but today it was pretty obvious. That’s what hurts the most.”

Houston opened the game with four consecutive hits off Glasnow. George Springer, Michael Brantley and José Altuve led things off with three singles to put the Astros on top, 1-0. Bregman hit a two-run double that extended the lead to 3-0, and Yuli Gurriel capped off the four-run inning with an RBI single.

Glasnow settled in and got through 2 2/3 innings, and the rest of the Rays’ pitching staff cruised until the eighth, when allowed back-to-back homers to Brantley and Altuve. With Gerrit Cole on the mound, the early deficit was too much for Tampa Bay to overcome.

hit a leadoff home run in the second inning off Cole, and that was all the Rays could muster offensively. Cole, who struck out 15 in Game 2 on Saturday, followed that performance with 10 punchouts over eight innings.

“It’s disappointing,” Tampa Bay shortstop said. “Obviously, we didn’t want to lose and we wanted to keep playing and go to New York, but Cole was really, really tough again. I don’t know if anyone can get better than that. He was even better than the first start. We just came up short.”

Despite not being able to complete the comeback, the Rays were able to accomplish a lot of positive things this season. The club went 17-8 in September and was able to secure one of the two AL Wild Card spots, its first postseason appearance since 2013.

Over the past nine days, Tampa Bay was able to win three elimination games, including the AL Wild Card Game against the A’s on the road and two home games against the Astros. The Rays battled injuries to three of their top four starters, but that didn’t stop them from winning 99 games, including the playoffs.

But perhaps most impressive was Tampa Bay’s ability to push Houston -- which was a heavy favorite in the series and the top pick to win the World Series -- to the brink in the ALDS.

“We had a good year in a tough division,” said Rays catcher . “Not many people had us beating Oakland. Not many people had us winning a game here. I thought our year was good, just unfortunate it didn’t turn out with a World Series championship like we all wanted.”

Manager Kevin Cash pushed all the right buttons in the series, and the Rays’ pitching staff demonstrated why they had the lowest ERA in the AL. Tampa Bay used 29 pitchers in the series, an ALDS record, and held a potent Houston lineup to 19 runs.

“This is, top to bottom, probably the best pitching staff that we faced all year,” said Astros manager AJ Hinch. “And that’s not disrespecting anybody else in the league, that’s just how good they are and how they match their guys up in their favor. And in a short series, it’s scary as hell, because they can get matchups and you have to beat their strength.”

When Cash went back into the clubhouse, his message to the team was simple: Thank you. He thanked them for being unconventional and for fighting obstacles throughout the season.

“What an impressive run,” Cash said. “They were a fun team to be around, fun team to watch for 6 1/2 months. Can’t deny that we came up short. You get a taste of this, you want to keep going.”

The Rays will now look to the future, which includes postseason experience for young players such as Adames, , and Glasnow. Aside from , d’Arnaud and Sogard, who are set to enter free agency, Tampa Bay will have the majority of its roster back in 2020, which should create some interesting roster decisions over the offseason.

“Tonight stings. It really stings,” said Rays vice president of baseball operations Chaim Bloom. “But what the group accomplished gives us optimism that we can do this for a while and hopefully build on this. These are the things you grow from.”

The Rays will also get reinforcements from a farm system that is ranked No. 2 in the Majors by MLB Pipeline and, hopefully, healthy seasons from Snell and Glasnow. But for now, the loss will sting for a resilient Tampa Bay team that saw its season come to an end in Houston.

The Rays weren’t able to shock the world, but they certainly earned respect.

“We just told everybody to come healthy, because next year looks really, really bright for us,” Adames said. “First year of everybody playing together and we went to the postseason, so that tells you we have a lot of talent here, and the future looks really, really good.”