By HAL McCOY
With Houston’s Justin Verlander on the mound, the Tampa Bay Rays knew runs would come at a premium.
How about hits?
The Rays not only didn’t score any runs, they barely scraped a hit off Verlander in Game One of the American League Division Series Friday afternoon.
It was as if Verlander was throwing oranges at the Rays in Minute Maid Park and they managed only one hit off him in seven innings as Houston posted a 6-0 victory.
Verlander gave up one lonely single and three walks over seven innings, while striking out eight during a 100-pitch effort. No Tampa Bay runner touched second base in his seven innings.
The man on a fast track toward another Cy Young Award struck out the last three batters in faced in the seventh inning.
The Rays, ecstatic to see Verlander gone after seven innings, scored two in the eighth off relief pitcher Ryan Pressly. It was far too few and far too late.
While Tampa Bay struggled to get runners on base, the Astros littered the basepaths early in the game. But Rays starter Tyler Glasnow enacted some escape acts.
The Astros had two on with two outs in the second, but Robinson Chirinos flied to left.
They had the bases loaded with two outs in the third, but Yordan Alvarez took a called third strike.
It came apart for the Rays in the fifth. Glasnow walked Josh Reddick on four pitches, then struck out George Springer on three pitches.
That brought up Jose Altuve, the little man with the big bat. He pulled one down the left field line, just inside the foul pole, and it landed in the Crawford boxes, a two-run home run.
Brendan McKay replaced Glasnow and Michael Brantley singled. Alex Bregman doubled off the left field scoreboard, putting runners on third and second.
With two outs Yuli Gurriel blooped one to shallow right. Second baseman Brandon Lowe chased it, but shied a bit as right fielder Austin Meadows charged in.
The ball glanced off Lowe’s glove and two runs scored on the error to make it 4-0. Against Verlander it was like 40-0.
Verlander walked two in the first four innings, but didn’t give up a hit until Brandon Lowe led the fifth with a single to center field. Non-plussed, Verlander retired the next three.
And he got stronger with the four-run lead. He struck out the side in the seventh. The last strikeout, Brandon Lowe, came on Verlander’s 100th pitch.
The Astros added a run a pair of runs in the seventh, both runs coming after the first two hitters made outs.
Alex Bregman walked and stole second. Yordan Alvarez ended a 0 for 15 end-of-the season slide with a run-scoring double and he scored on Yuli Gurriel’s ground rule double to make it 6-0.
So what is ahead for the Rays? Oh, in Game 2 they have to face another Cy Young possibility, 20-game winner Gerrit Cole. He is 20-and-5 with a 2.50 earned run average.