Kevin Kiermaier hit a go-ahead, three-run homer as Tampa Bay teed off on Zack Greinke, and the Rays backed another clutch playoff pitching performance by Charlie Morton to beat the visiting Houston Astros 10-3 Monday and cut their American League Division Series deficit to 2-1.
The 35-year-old Morton is 4-0 with an 0.95 earned-run average in four career elimination starts, including last week’s wild-card win at Oakland.
Astros manager AJ Hinch announced after the game that Houston will start Justin Verlander on three days of rest in Game 4 while Tampa Bay will use Diego Castillo as an opener.
Kiermaier got the wild-card Rays going with his shot the second inning. Ji-Man Choi and Brandon Lowe added solo shots off Greinke, who has never won in Tampa Bay, and Willy Adames added a solo blast against Wade Miley in the sixth.
Tampa Bay’s four home runs matched a franchise record for a post-season game. The Rays also went deep four times against the Boston Red Sox during the 2008 AL Championship Series and did it again during last week’s 5-1 wild-card victory against the Athletics.
Zack Greinke is the 1st pitcher in Astros history to allow 3+ HR in a postseason game.
Jose Altuve homered for the Astros, who are one victory away from their third straight appearance in the ALCS. It was Altuve’s 10th career post-season home run, tied with Chase Utley for the most by a second baseman in major league history.
The Astros won the first two games with a pair of dominating pitching performances from Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, who combined to limit the Rays to one unearned run and five hits with 23 strikeouts over 14 2/3 innings. Houston’s other pitchers have allowed 12 earned runs in 11 1/3 frames, an ERA of 9.53.
With Morton on the mound, and returning home for the first playoff game at Tropicana Field in six years, the Rays were confident they would find a way to get back into the series against Greinke, an 18-game winner who was 8-1 with a 3.02 ERA in 10 starts after being acquired from Arizona at the trade deadline.
Morton, meanwhile, remained perfect in potential post-season elimination games, including a pair of Game 7 victories during Houston’s 2017 World Series run. He shrugged off yielding Altuve’s first-inning homer to hold the Astros potent lineup in check while his offence was building a comfortable lead.
Greinke was pulled after 61 pitches, and his ERA over 12 career post-season starts rose to 4.58.
The Astros have homered in 28 consecutive games, including the first three of the ALDS. It’s the second-longest streak in major league history. The New York Yankees homered in 31 straight games from May 26 to June 30 of this season.
Rays third baseman Yandy Diaz, who came off the injured list for the final game of the regular season and then homered twice in Tampa Bay’s wild-card win over Oakland, left the game in the second inning with left foot soreness. He was replaced by Matt Duffy.